REVELSTOKE, B.C. While avalanches can and have continued into June, it was an average or below-average year for avalanche fatalities in most parts of the West.
Only six deaths were recorded in Canada this past winter just concluded, compared with 11 the winter before and 29 two winters ago. Most of the deaths two years ago occurred in two incidents near Revelstoke.
The Canadian Avalanche Center attributes the lower death toll this past winter to more stable funding for its operations, greater public awareness of the dangers of backcountry activities, and its own success at disseminating information. With a hefty contribution from the Alberta government, the organization plans to expand its avalanche forecasting service to the Alberta side of the Rockies.
South of the border, avalanche deaths were also down in several places. Jackson Hole had only one death, compared with several during recent years. Colorado had six through mid-May, which is average. Colorados snowpack was uncommonly strong, because of more frequent snowstorms. With regular snow, the snowpack layers adhere to one another much better.
U.S. skier visits stick to 21 century pattern
DENVER, Colo. The drought in the Pacific Northwest dropped the U.S. skier count last winter to 56.4 million, but that still came in as the fourth-busiest ski season on record. After stagnating at about 52 million skier days for about 20 years, skier traffic has increased substantially since the turn of the century. Ski industry officials say the increase is because baby boomers continue to ski even as their off-spring, the echo boomers or gen y, now take to the slopes.
The six-state Rocky Mountain region is up 2.4 percent from last year. The Aspen Skiing Co., with four resorts, reported a 4 percent increase in skier visits last winter, its third consecutive winter of growth after a decade of declines and stagnation. Vail Resorts and Intrawest have not announced their skier totals, but stock in Vail reached highs not seen since 1998 in anticipation of next months release of what is expected to be a very rosy third-quarter earnings. The basis for the earnings are a healthy ski season at the five ski areas owned by the company.
Big snowpack in California causes wonderful waterfalls
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. Thanks to extraordinary snowfall in the Sierra Nevada measured at 180 percent of normal, California waterfalls promise to be stunning this year, reports the Fresno Bee. Waterfalls are most spectacular in Yosemite Valley, which has nine measured at more than 1,000 feet tall.
"This is the year of the waterfall," said Chris Shaffer, author of "The Definitive Guide to the Waterfalls of Southern and Central California." "From now through early July we're going to have amazing conditions from the Kern River Valley all the way to Lake Tahoe. It's going to be one of the best years in recent memory."