Mountain News: Plenty of snow, but watch out for bears 

click to enlarge SHUTTERSTOCK PHOTO - OUT AND ABOUT Spring skiing poses challenges at ski resorts now that bears are out of hibernation.
  • Shutterstock photo
  • OUT AND ABOUT Spring skiing poses challenges at ski resorts now that bears are out of hibernation.

JASPER, Alberta — Spring skiing poses different challenges along the spine of the Rocky Mountains. In Vail, the threat of lightning chased off skiers on the last weekend of skiing in April. In Alberta, though, grizzly bears pose a particular challenge.

The grizzly bear that showed up on the closing weekend at Marmot Basin was "shooed away," in the words of a spokesman for Jasper National Park.

Three hours to the south, at Lake Louise, which is within Banff National Park, a 10-year-old sow known by the local ski staff as "Olivia" emerged during the last month of exceptional warmth to browse greenery on the front side of the mountain. The Rocky Mountain Outlook reported that skiers were understanding about the need to be shunted to the back side of the mountain to terrain accessible only by gondola.

Mt. Bachelor terrain to make it 6th largest

BEND, Ore. — The big keep getting bigger. In the Cascade Range of Oregon, Mt. Bachelor has announced plans to build a $6-million Doppelmayr high-speed detachable lift to serve 257 new hectares of terrain.

Tim Brennwald, chief operating officer at Powdr Corp., the ski area owner, said the lift and new terrain would cement Bachelor as the "premier destination ski resort in the Pacific Northwest."

This addition will give Bachelor 1,747 hectares, making it the sixth largest ski area by land mass in North America.

Liftopia puts Whistler Blackcomb at No. 1 at 3,307 ha. followed by Park City Mountain Resort & Canyons at 2,954 ha., Big Sky at 2,347 ha., Vail at 2,140 ha., and Heavenly Mountain at 1,942 ha.

Alta's argument for building small tram

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Alta is an anomaly in this way: It calls itself a ski area, not a resort. And to improve the skiing experience, the ski area at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon has plans for several new lifts, including a high-speed detachable quad, plus a tram that will, if approved by the U.S. Forest Service, reach nearly the summit of Mount Baldy.

The ski area says the primary purpose of the tram will be to aid ski patrollers when doing avalanche control work. By getting to the top, they can throw hand charges into the snow-laden slopes below instead of using howitzers fired from below to trigger avalanches.

One reason for the shift, said Connie Marshall, Alta spokesman, is that the U.S. Army at some point intends to phase out giving mortar shells to ski areas for avalanche control. Part of this shift has been provoked by concerns about homeland security.

But since the tram to the top of 3,373-metre Baldy will be in place, it will also become available to skiers when conditions allow, says Alta. The tram is to have an hourly capacity of 150 passengers.

In reporting these facts, the Salt Lake Tribune thought it pertinent to also talk with conservation groups. Carl Fisher, of Save Our Canyons, said it was almost sacrilegious to provide people mechanical access to the top of Mount Baldy. "The hike to Baldy has been a rite of passage for a lot of folks," he said.

Nathan Rafferty, who heads Ski Utah, a trade organization, said that ski areas need to keep evolving and upgrading themselves. "You can't rest on your laurels and think people will just keep coming if you don't improve your product, expand your offerings, update what you have available."

San Juan snow good, so were skier visits

DURANGO, Colo. — It was a good year for snow in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. It was also a good year for ski areas.

Purgatory Resort, located between Durango and Silverton, reported a 17-year high for skier visits, the result of good snow, a new high-speed lift, and a 50th-anniversary celebration.

At Wolf Creek, located between Durango and Alamosa, snowfall had reached 10 metres by late April, with more still falling, compared to 6.9 metres all of last season, reported the Durango Herald.

For a bit of peace and quiet, go to Nevada

VAIL, Colo. — Too much racket to hear yourself think? Don't go to Vail for relief. There's an interstate highway that roars through town. But don't go to the Everglades, either. Where there's water, there tends to be noise. Ditto trees and other vegetation, when the wind blows.

Instead, go to Nevada, which has little water, little vegetation and few people, making it the quietest of states, according to research by the National Park Service study, followed by Wyoming. But Utah's slickrock country also ranks among the quietest places on Earth, pointed out the Vail Daily.

Republican grip on Jackson Hole loosens

JACKSON, Wyo. — Teton County, which is more or less synonymous with Jackson Hole, voted for Barry Goldwater in 1964. And while it has much in common with liberal enclaves like Telluride and Aspen, it still tilts Republican, as Wyoming does decidedly so. Statewide, 69 per cent of all voters in Wyoming are Republican.

But Democrats have been gaining in Teton County, reported columnist Jonathan Schechter in the Jackson Hole News&Guide. As recently as 2004, he reports, 57 per cent of local registered voters were Republican, while just 20 per cent were Democrats. The balance were unaffiliated.

But beginning in 2008, Teton County began shifting. Now, Republicans are down to 45 per cent and Democrats are up to 35 per cent.

Grand Teton sort of makes the stamp cut

JACKSON, Wyo. — This is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in the United States. There are 411 sites, ranging from Yellowstone, the very first, to any number of Civil War battlefields and other such sites.

To mark the anniversary, the U.S. Postal Service chose 16 national parks to be remembered in commemorative stamps. But Grand Teton, the backdrop for Jackson Hole, did not make the cut — at least not directly. The Jackson Hole News&Guide explained that an image of the Tetons was used for a stamp honoring the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park in Vermont.

But then, does anybody (other than this writer) buy commemorative stamps anymore?

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