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Mountain News: Snowmobilers died high-marking



KETCHUM, Idaho - Yet more evidence arrives that all the tools in the world might not save you if caught in an avalanche. Snowmobilers both in Idaho and British Columbia died in recent weeks, and the stories were remarkably similar.

In the Idaho case, a 38-year-old snowmobiler was high-marking in the mountains north of Sun Valley, seeing how far up a steep slope he could go before being forced by gravity to turn around. The avalanche left him buried under seven to 10 feet of snow.

Three of his companions observed the avalanche, and were able to pick up the signal from his beacon within minutes. All were equipped with snow shovels and probe poles. They also had a satellite phone, and one of them was an emergency medical technician.

Still, because of how compacted the snow became in the avalanche, it took them at least 20 minutes to reach the victim. The county coroner said the man died of asphyxiation. He leaves behind two children and a wife.

In Canada, along the Continental Divide in the Monashee Range, a 24-year-old snowmobiler had reached nearly the apex of a steep-faced, above-timberline slope when he triggered an avalanche. He had been among 10 snowmobilers who had spent several hours high-marking on the slope.

The Edmonton Journal says that despite avalanche beacons and probes, it took his companions 30 minutes to locate and excavate the victim from under more than six feet of snow.

"Snow is pretty wild stuff. It will pack in around you quite tight. People lose the ability to literally expand their chest to breath," said Greg Johnson, an avalanche forecaster with the Canadian Avalanche Association.

With this death, 25 people had died in avalanches in Canada for the season, 19 of them snowmobilers. The total is the highest since 2003, when 29 were killed.

Avalanche wipes out caribou

BANFF, Alberta - Caribou are nearly gone from Banff National Park. There was just a handful, perhaps four or five. But a recent avalanche killed three of them.

Even before the avalanche, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook , biologists had doubted the caribou herd would survive unless it could be connected to other populations of caribou. However, caribou are declining throughout their historic ranges in both Alberta and British Columbia for reasons that are not well understood.

Tourists looking for adventure?

MT. CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. - Operators of the Crested Butte ski area are looking to create an adventure park at the base of the ski slopes.