Mountain News: Ski patrol all around, but it wasn't enough 

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Ski patrol all around, but it wasn't enough

TRUCKEE, Calif. — The death of a ski patroller at Alpine Meadows with 28 years experience highlights yet again the randomness of avalanche fury.

Bill Foster, 53, had taken refuge in an area that historically had never been known to slide while a fellow ski patroller tossed an explosive to provoke a slide. The avalanche broke higher and wider on the slope than had been previously observed, representatives of the ski company said.

With ski professionals trained in avalanche rescue all around, Foster's location was identified within one minute, and it took another eight minutes to dig him out. They immediately began administering cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.

It wasn't enough. Foster died later on Christmas day at a hospital in Reno.

"Nine minutes is reasonably quick" for recovery of a victim from an avalanche, said Brian Lazar, forecaster with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. "Your chances of survival drop precipitously after 15 minutes," Lazar told Mountain Town News.

"That said, it doesn't imply that everyone who is recovered within 15 minutes will survive. Some people die from trauma during the avalanches. Others pass out in two or three minutes."

Unlike the shallower and more stratified snow commonly found in the high and cold Rocky Mountains, the maritime climate of California produces deeper, denser snowpacks that are more stable. But avalanches do occur.

Avalanche fatalities have increased in recent decades as more people have headed out into the backcountry. John Snook, also a forecaster with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, told the Los Angeles Times that the number of fatalities has remained proportionate to the number of people going into harm's way, or even going down.

If you go back to the late 1880s and early 1900s, Colorado had far more avalanche fatalities, sometimes dozens a year. Most victims were miners or teamsters who toiled through winter in dangerous places, mucking for fortunes in gold and silver.

Ski patroller killed in slide at Snowmass

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. — On Sunday, Patricia "Patsy" Hileman, a 26-year veteran of the Snowmass Ski Patrol, was killed in an avalanche while skiing in a permanently closed area.

The Aspen Daily News described it as an area containing the most extreme terrain at Snowmass. What she was doing in the permanently closed area was not explained and is, perhaps, unknowable. Aspen Skiing Co. representatives said that she was passionate about her job, her co-workers and skiing.

Sierra Nevada peak to become Mt. Lawrence

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. — A peak in the Sierra Nevada hitherto identified only by its elevation of 12,240 is to soon be officially named Mt. Andrea Lawrence, in honour of the late conservationist and ski racer.

Lawrence was a three-time Olympian who remains the only American double-gold medalist in Olympic alpine skiing. That success occurred in Oslo, Norway, in 1952.

Later in life, she turned her passion to land conservation and environmental preservation while also serving as a member of the Board of Supervisors of Mono County, where Mammoth is located. She died in 2009.

The Sheet explains that the peak is on the border of the Ansel Adams Wilderness, just east of Yosemite National Park, all of this due east of San Jose.

A bill calling for the designation passed Congress with just a handful of dissenting votes. There is no reason to doubt that President Barack Obama will not sign the bill into law.

The peak is located next door to Mt. Amelia Earhart, named after the famous aviator of the 1920s and 1930s.

wolves get collars

JASPER, Alberta — Six wolves in Jasper National Park were successfully outfitted with collars after being captured in nets with the aid of helicopters. The Fitzhugh explains that the collars contain telemetrical devices that will allow researchers to keep track of the whereabouts of the wolves. That, in turn, will allow them to inform the public where it's safe to walk and run with dogs. Ten cases have been reported recently of wolves attempting to attack dogs, although so far none of their human companions.


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