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Message not being heard

LOVELAND PASS, Colo. — For all the efforts made to educate backcountry users about the dangers of avalanches, the message is not being broadly heard in Colorado.

A case in point is at Loveland Pass, where highway access is easy but fatal avalanches through the decades have been frequent.

The U.S. Forest Service surveyed 75 people on a recent Saturday, and the agency’s Shelly Grail told the Summit Daily News that only a third had beacons, shovels, or probe poles.

Worse, only one member of a group was equipped in most cases, meaning that this equipment was of little value. For beacons to work, there must be at least two. And probe poles are needed for searches, and shovels are mandatory.

Sun Valley airport penciled in

HAILEY, Idaho — Planners assembling a new airport for the Ketchum-Sun Valley area are penciling in a date: 2017.

The airport that is slowly and contentiously being agreed upon would be located farther down-valley from Ketchum, out of the mountains entirely, and on federal Bureau of Land Management property. Estimated cost is $80 million to $100 million.

The hunt for a new airport began after Federal Aviation Administration officials told locals that the current airport, located in Hailey, about 10 miles down-valley of Ketchum, would be insufficient to handle the larger commercial jets as well as the heavier private jets unless extensively modified. Those modifications would have entailed condemning residential areas in Hailey, something Hailey officials were unwilling to do.

Snowmobilers making enemies

DURANGO, Colo. — Cross-country skiers and snowshoers are getting steadily more cranky about the growing intrusion of noise and smells produced by snowmobiles in the San Juan Mountains.

"We’re not saying that snowmobiles should not have a place on this Earth," Durango resident Hoe Griffith told the Durango Telegraph. "But mixing skiers and snowmobiles is hazardous. These guys move at extremely high speeds and they eat up the last, best powder snow."

Skiers want to expand their donut hole of quiet in an area near the Molas Divide to create a larger sanctuary away from motors. The Forest Service in 2001 banned snowmobilers from 200 acres, but gives snowmobilers continued right to use 7,100 acres in the area of Molas Divide.

Snowmobilers appealed the allocation, but the Durango Herald reports that the 10 th Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed the Forest Service decision.

The ruling angered snowmobilers. "I’ll go to my grave thinking that the Forest Service started this on flimsy grounds," said Laura Alsuip, who is with the Silverton Snowmobile Club. She told the Herald that snowmobilers effectively lost 1,800 acres, not the 200 from which they were specifically excluded.