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Extreme skier is in extremely hot water

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TELLURIDE, Colo. — A celebrated "extreme" skier’s name seems to be mud in Telluride at the moment.

The skier, Scott Kennett, who has been featured in several films as well as in the pages of Powder , used the lifts to ski an out-of-area run called Contention that is known for its considerable avalanche risk. Boosting the avalanche risk was a storm that was in the process of dropping a foot of snow.

After he badly broke his leg, Kennett used a cell phone to summon rescuers. The storm made a rescue so difficult that the rescue supervisor, Eric Berg, wasn’t sure he could get Kennett removed from the slope without substantial risk of harming the rescue personnel.

"That’s a very difficult thing to say to somebody – that you can’t get them out because you can’t make sure the rescuers will be safe," Berg told The Telluride Watch.

Then, ski patrollers volunteered to ski down to him, to splint his leg, and as they did, the storm unexpectedly broke long enough to allow helicopter access. But that’s when the rescuers discovered that the companion of Kennett was a 16-year-old freeride team skier that Kennett coaches.

Locals were cranky and indignant.

"If somebody chooses to be irresponsible and it’s a real dangerous day, at least leave the cell phone behind." said the local sheriff, Bill Masters, a card-carrying Libertarian. "We’ll find you in the springtime; that’s fine. But if you’re going to go in there, don’t’ call us and say, ‘You have to come get me now.’"

In addition to losing his skiing privileges at Telluride for two years, Kennett faces civil charges for violating the ski area boundary and could face criminal charges of child endangerment.

Passing hat for air service

DURANGO, Colo. — Like other resort areas, boosters of airplane service to Durango will be passing the hat more broadly in the community than just the traditional suspects.

Durango has a much more diversified economy than most ski towns. A study by the local Fort Lewis College finds that whereas tourism formerly accounted for 32 per cent of the local economy, but is now only 27 per cent. The old funding formula to subsidize air services – passing the hat to the ski area, the hotels, and the train operator – no longer works.

The local La Plata Economic Development Action Partnership is seeking $750000 in federal funds this year to subsidize flights, but is trying to round up $150,000 of local money.

If the group gets the federal money, it is most interested in patching together flights allowing more efficient access to and from cities in the East.

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