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Resort Report: Avalanches, daylight savings & 50 years of instruction

In this week's Resort Report, spring snow conditions have resulted in a massive spike in avalanche activity across the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest, while Colorado ski areas are fighting a bill to establish year-round Daylight Savings time, and PSIA-AASI is celebrating 50 years of instruction at Snowmass.

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The spring avalanche season has erupted in the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest. A backcountry skier was killed in an avalanche Monday, April 4, 2011 outside the boundary of Aspen Highlands ski area, barely one week after a snowboarder was killed outside the boundary of Stevens Pass ski area on March 27. In other incidents, a skier and snowboarder were rescued after setting off an avalanche near Colorado’s A-Basin, adventure photographer Jimmy Chin survived a 1,000 foot slide down the flanks of Albright Peak in the Grand Teton National Park on March 31 without injury, and massive slides have been reported at Crystal Mountain.

“During the past two days, we have had some very large avalanches at Crystal. Yesterday Rock Face slid to the ground,” reads a blog post on the Crystal website from Kim Kircher. “Center Chute went naturally and the rest was shot with explosives. The debris went well into Kelly’s Gap Road, ripping up 100 year old timber and redefining the path. A 150cm crown now extends along the top of the face, around the chutes and all the way across Upper and Lower Eagles. Thankfully, no one was caught or injured in these slides. But the destructive nature of avalanches are quite a force to behold. The sound of trees snapping below Rock Face (in the Berry Patch area and below) could be heard throughout the base area yesterday. Kelly’s Gap will, most likely, remain closed for the remainder of the season, as the piles of debris and broken trees are nearly fifty feet high in places.”

Daylight savings bill opposed by Colorado ski area operators

A proposed state law to put Colorado on permanent daylight savings time is receiving some strong resistance from the state’s ski area operators, who claim it would have widespread negative effects on the winter tourism industry. After receiving a 6-0 vote of support from the energy committee in March, Colorado resorts are now mounting opposition to the bill.

“It’ll cut an hour out of our operating time,” Melanie Mills, president and CEO of Colorado Ski Country told the Denver Post. Mills said the extra hour of darkness would impact everything from snow control to grooming operations at the ski areas. In Aspen, concerns are that change in daylight hours would also disrupt flights for skiers arriving from the Pacific Time Zone. “It’s not ideal,” Aspen Skiing Company vice president David Perry told the Aspen Daily News.

Republican state Sen. Greg Brophy began floating the idea for the bill in March on his Facebook page, stating: “I absolutely hate the time change from standard to daylight savings. The fall change isn’t painful, but I don’t like losing the hour against the clock in the afternoon. How about you? Should Colorado just stay on DST?”

PSIA-AASI Celebrate 50 years of instruction

The 50/50 Celebration, hosted by the Professional Ski Instructors of America and the American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASI), hit Snowmass beginning April 2, 2011, with more than 600 ski and snowboard instructors celebrating half a century of inspiring people to take to the slopes.

On April 6, the Snowmass Conference Center will be the site of a keynote address by Bud Keene, Olympic and X Games Snowboard Coach. Lifetime Achievement Awards will honor PSIA-AASI co-founder Curt Chase and former PSIA-AASI President Mark Anderson. The historic presentation of 50-year member pins will be awarded to more than 30 attending members of the organization, some of whom are now in their 90s.

Killington to stay open until May 1

Killington, the Beast of the East, announced plans to keep the season going for another month on the area’s 260 inches of snowfall. The area will stay open until May 1, 2011, conditions permitting. “We’re thrilled to provide the longest ski and snowboard season in the East,” said Rob Megnin, Killington’s director of sales and marketing, “Killington opened daily for the 2010-11 season on November 2 and will be providing our loyal guests and season pass holders with 180 days of skiing and riding through May 1.”

Killington has received 260 inches of snowfall, surpassing the 20-year annual average of 250 inches, and currently has an average mid-mountain base depth of 36-42 inches, with upwards to 70 inches covering Superstar trail.

In other news

Many Japanese ski resorts have closed as a result of the ongoing crisis in the country. According to PlanetSKI, A lack of energy is just one of the major problems facing Japan. Factories have closed and there are still hundreds of thousands of homes without electricity and there are rolling power cuts across urban areas to save electricity. There are around 70 ski resorts in the country…Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is planning to travel to New Hampshire to ski Tuckerman Ravine, and most likely to formally announce his candidacy for President on the Republican party ticket. No word yet on which the Taos resident plans to accomplish first…Ferrari is unveiling a four-wheel drive car for skiers–really rich skiers!–with a $359,000 price tag. “You can drive a real Ferrari, with its extreme performance, to take your family skiing,” reads a post on the Ferrari owner’s club website, Passione Rossa…Mountain High is testing out a giant airbag at its terrain park, and a worker at the Alyeska Resort has been accused of assaulting a co-worker by striking him with a chair from the ski lift. According to Alaska State Troopers, Matthew Mix was issued a citation to appear in court on a misdemeanor assault charge after striking co-worker Christopher Hopman with a chair lift while he was trying to board the chair.

–Peter Kray

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