Around the Mountains: Avalanche claims life of skier, trees claim snowmobilier
JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. An avalanche claimed the life of a Colorado man in the Tetons on Saturday, while a snowmobiler from Wisconsin died last Tuesday after slamming into a tree.The Colorado man, Paul Maniaci, was climbing up a peak on the west side of the Teton Range with his brother, who lives in Driggs, Idaho, when they were swept by an avalanche. Using a transceiver, the brother was able to locate the victim within about 10 minutes. He was buried under four feet of snow. However, he had died of trauma and suffocation, the county corner ruled. Avalanche danger that afternoon had been predicted to be low, says the Jackson Hole News &Guide. The newspaper says the victim, who was in his mid-20s, had been planning to celebrate his birthday the following day.The snowmobiler, Michael Earl Wilson, 61, was riding the Continental Divide Trail near Togwotee Pass at a speed of about 35 mph when he missed a corner and slammed into a tree.Out-of-bounds skier dies of exposure at WhistlerWHISTLER, B.C. A 34-year-old man from Quebec died of what was described as “extreme exposure” after skiing into the backcountry from Blackcomb ski area. “Once you step outside the boundary, all those little safety blankets that you would take for granted in-bounds are gone,” ski area safety supervisor Dave Reid told Pique.Because the man had a habit of taking off on his own, the search was not begun until he had been out for two nights. Even then, would-be rescuers had no idea where he might have gone. A massive search yielded his ski tracks, which led to his abandoned skis, and then the meandering footprints left by his ski boots.”It was indicative of irrational behavior,” said Brad Sills, head of Whistler’s Search and Rescue.The skier’s body was discovered three days after he had left the ski area. It was the victim’s first day skiing at Blackcomb.Searchers warned of a similar potential fate awaiting others who venture into the backcountry bereft of suitable equipment or knowledge of local geography.Gondola expected to juice Whistler by 5 percentWHISTLER, B.C. Intrawest, now owned by Fortress Investments, is going ahead with a gondola linking the Whistler and Blackcomb ski areas. Company officials believe the conveyance is so extraordinary that it alone will boost lodging nights in Whistler by 5 percent.The gondola will span a huge chasm, and will set records for maximum height above the ground of 1,361 feet (415 meters) and for distance, 1.8 miles (2.9 km), between two towers. Cabins will hold 30 people at a time.Dave Brownlie, chief executive officer of the ski company, predicts the gondola will draw visitors from around the world. “It will help support sustainability as a world-class resort,” he said. Tickets for the ride will be $10.The project has a price tag of $51.4 million ($43.6 US), of which the Whistler municipality is chipping in roughly $1 million in the form of a tax rebate. Town officials justified the contribution as a way to continue the town’s relationship with the company.Several town councilors dissented, including Nancy Whilhelm-Morden. “Why should we be asked to subsidize a deep-pocketed company?” she asked.That theme was amplified in Pique by editor Bob Barnett. Fortress, he pointed out, has been doing well for the five men who are its principal owners. Citing a columnist for TheStreet.com, Barnett reported the five men have reaped more than $1 billion in the last 25 months.The Fortress strategy, Barnett suggests, is to fall back on the relationship between the community and Intrawest’s long-term managers, Brownlie and Hugh Smyth, when the actual financial relationship is between the municipality and those billion-dollar investors.Whistler continues to push wellness themeWHISTLER, B.C. Whistler continues explore wellness as a tourism draw. The second annual event called WWW, for Whistler Wellness Week, is scheduled for May, and will include seminars, classes, and a full-day wellness fair. Coming this summer will be a six-day workshop meditation workshop hosted by Deepak Chopra. A resort under construction in Alberta’s Canmore, Three Sisters, is also focusing on wellness.Aspen’s O’Donnell will tell about global warmingWHISTLER, B.C. Global warming is finding its way into every nook and cranny of the tourism business, witness the agenda for this year’s Mountain Travel Symposium. A forum at this year’s conference will be called sustainability and diversification. The discussion will be led by Pat O’Donnell, the former chief executive officer of the Aspen Skiing Co., and also a former president of Whistler Mountain Ski Corp. O’Donnell will talk about Aspen’s aggressive action regarding global warming, including the advertising campaign launched during his tenure last year that challenges skiers to do something about global warming.Wabbits, not weal issues, get headlines in CanmoreCANMORE, Alberta Canmore’s prolific feral population of rabbits is again getting broad publicity. Town officials sent out a survey asking the public what should be done, but the survey produced more inquiries from various television and radio stations and newspapers across Canada and the U.S. than local responses, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook.In its editorial columns, the newspaper seemed equally annoyed and amused by the limelight. “An ‘issue’ like wascally wabbits woaming the streets is, at the least, an opportunity for non-Valley residents across the country, apparently, to chuckle at the plight of a high-rent mountain town,” said the newspaper.The Outlook suggested such attention more appropriately should have been bestowed on efforts of a local school bus driver to aid the children in Uganda.Bark beetles expected to kill 80 percent of pines in B.C.PEMBERTON, B.C. Whistler’s Pique newsmagazine reports a new consortium of regional governments formed in response to the continued epidemic of bark beetles in south-interior British Columbia. Current estimates project 80 percent of lodgepole pine trees will die within five years as a result of the beetles in the Lillooet area, about 70 miles northwest of Whistler. Pine trees constitute 40 percent of the trees in that area.Foresters have projected a similar loss among lodgepole pine forests in Colorado’s Summit and Grand counties, from Breckenridge to Winter Park and Grand Lake, and also in the Vail area. The problem in British Columbia is more severe farther north in the interior, and the provincial government has allocated $2 million toward the issue. There are some reports that two species, mountain and Western pine beetles, are cohabitating in the same trees, although what exactly that means, if anything, was not explained.Beetle districts’ bill consideredGRANBY Colorado lawmakers are reviewing a proposal to allow municipalities and counties to form or join special districts to address the bark beetles. The proposed law would allow voters to tax themselves, both by property and sales tax.Such districts would then be allowed to manage forest improvements, offer incentives for private landowners, and promote local wood products industries. The Sky-Hi News reports a broad consortium of interests testifying on behalf of the bill, although some doubts have been expressed about the effectiveness of such districts. Crested Butte considering adoption of tax on carbonCRESTED BUTTE The Crested Butte Town Council has adopted a moratorium on installation of snowmelt devices. Town officials intend to explore whether to regulate use of such devices, such as heated tape on roofs and heated driveways, or impose a carbon tax.One other Colorado municipality, Boulder, several months ago attracted broad attention when it enacted a carbon tax. Many global warming activists, as well as most economists in a recent poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal, believe that a carbon tax will be necessary to deal with accumulating emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.The Crested Butte News quotes a town building official as saying that it will probably take a year to craft such a carbon tax.Ketchum studies potential tapping underground heatKETCHUM, Idaho City officials in Ketchum are investigating whether geothermal sources in the area can be tapped, and if so, whether the energy could be used to create hot springs or perhaps melt snow on city streets.”I think we should at least ask the question,” said Randy Hall, the city council president. The investigation and planning is allotted six months. The Idaho Mountain Express explains that Ketchum had a resort using the area’s natural hot springs almost a decade before the Sun Valley ski area was started.
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