ATM: Snowmobilers half of all avalanche victims |

ATM: Snowmobilers half of all avalanche victims

ALLEN BESTspecial to the daily

DENVER – The number of snowmobilers being killed in avalanches is rising. The Denver Post reports that from January through March, when most fatalities occur, half of the 26 avalanche deaths recorded in the United States and Canada were snowmobilers. That equals the number of skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers and climbers combined.Avalanche experts Jill Fredston and Doug Fesler of the Alaska Mountain Safety center estimate that more than 60 percent of avalanche-related snowmobile deaths are attributed to the game called high marking. The newspaper says that as snowmobiles become more powerful, riders are taking them farther up steep mountain slopes, vying to get the highest on the slope before gravity overtakes them.Skier days down, but lodging nights staticKETCHUM, Idaho – Snow was scarce at Sun Valley this year, just 144 inches for the season, less than half that of the previous year. Skier visits were also down, only 362,000, the lowest during the last 12 years, although the Sun Valley Co. reported occupancy rates as good as last year. Does that gap represent how much less locals were skiing?Always there’s a silver lining. In this case, Tad Roberts, who supervises the half-pipe and parks on Baldy Mountain, reported that less snow was more. Instead of having to blow the fresh snow out of the flats of the pipe, he told the Idaho Mountain Express, the runs were fast nearly all year.Realtors decline, but no endangered speciesTRUCKEE, Calif. – For seven years, the real estate market at Truckee and Lake Tahoe continued to inflate. Last year, the market conflated, with the number of transactions declining by 30 percent. Most directly affected, reports the Sierra Sun, were part-time real-estate agents.The Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors lost 5 percent of members, although 1,200 remain. But sales have picked up again this year, a season that normally drops, causing some realty specialists to predict good times ahead for the merchants of dirt.Crested Butte charged in death of groomerCRESTED BUTTE – Operators of Crested Butte Mountain Resort may be fined up to $67,500 in connection with the death this winter of a snow groomer who was run over and crushed by his own machine.The report says that the Snocat that Chris Mikesell, 23, was operating had armrest and driver door safety switches that were bypassed. “These switches were designed to automatically activate brakes if a shut door opened, or the armrest was pulled up,” said the federal government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. John Healey, an OSHA area director, told the Crested Butte News that other equipment at the resort was similarly altered.Base area work planned at Steamboat, SolVistaSTEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Work is beginning in the $23 million redevelopment of the base area at the Steamboat ski area. The Steamboat Pilot & Today reports work this year will include one new traffic roundabout, but also other work in mostly public areas in preparation for even more significant work in coming years. The basic infrastructure being replaced was installed in the early 1970s.Meanwhile, in Granby, town trustees have approved a $5 million redevelopment of the base lodge at the SolVista ski area. Almost singular among Colorado ski areas, SolVista is entirely on private land. The ski area also serves a real-estate development called Granby Ranch, which has been approved for 4,000 residential units.

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