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Mountain News: Avalanche on Athabasca but these two got lucky

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JASPER, Alta.—Avalanche season has arrived in the Canadian Rockies. The Jasper Fitzhugh reported two climbers were on Mt. Athabasca in Jasper National Park on snow that they described as being like plastic foam when they heard a whumpf underfoot.

Both men were dragged 600 metres down the mountain. One, although hurt, ended up on top of the snow. The other was buried except for his head and one arm. As such, they were able to emerge from the snow.

Both had shovels, beacons, and probes, tools that don't guarantee survival but do improve the odds.

Dark sky enthusiasts continue to make case for shielding lights

WESTCLIFFE, Colo.—In Colorado's Wet Mountain Valley, the debate goes on about restrictions on light fixtures in order to prevent light trespass and light pollution. Those restrictions will be needed if Custer County is to be certified as a Dark Skies Reserve.

Led by Jim Bradburn, a retired architect in Westcliffe who designed the famous tent-like roofline at Denver International Airport, the local dark-sky enthusiasts had hoped to gain the first such designation by the International Dark Sky Association issued in the United States.

Then election politics got in the way. Local political candidates in 2016 argued that the restrictions would usurp private property rights. A slogan was bandied about: change a light bulb, go to jail.

This is despite previous dark sky designations of the valley's two side-by-side towns, Westcliffe and Silver Cliff. To achieve that designation, the two towns had to adopt restrictions.

Instead of the Colorado valley becoming the first U.S. dark sky preserve, the Idaho region around Ketchum and Sun Valley earned that honour.

Meanwhile, enthusiasts of dark skies point to the economic value of preventing light pollution. The Wet Mountain Tribune reported that star-viewing parties this year have drawn 445 people, more than half arriving from elsewhere. Proponents also say that the dark sky has been a factor for some home purchasers.

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