Ever get on a ski lift, look at the heights below you and sweat a little? Get nervous when the chairlift suddenly stops, leaving you dangling 50 feet in the air? It’s not something I worry about, but others do. And more will with this story out of Maine, where a ski lift failed, sending a whole gaggle of skiers plummeting as much as 30 feet to the ground. Thankfully, the Sugarloaf Mountain ski area had received a good dose of fresh powder, softening the fall. But eight people ended up being injured. Here’s an Associated Press video about the accident:
Here’s some more on the story:
CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine (AP) — All of that snow from the recent Northeast blizzard proved to be a blessing for at least one of the skiers who tumbled from a chair lift a Maine ski resort.
Rebecca London, who was aboard the crippled lift, credited fresh, ungroomed snow for softening her landing Tuesday; the resort said it got 20 to 22 inches of snow a day earlier.
“The snow was all soft,” said London, of Carrabassett Valley, whose goggles also protected her face when it hit the chair lift’s retaining bar during the 30-foot fall.
At least eight others — including three children — were taken to hospitals after the double-chair lift at Sugarloaf derailed during a busy vacation week at the popular resort 120 miles north of Portland. Dozens of skiers remained on the crippled lift for more than an hour until the ski patrol could get them down.
An investigation will determine whether the accident was wind-related or mechanical, officials said. The ski resort was being buffeted by winds gusting up to 40 mph a day after the blizzard blew through. A witness said he saw a Sugarloaf employee working on the lift before the derailment.
The resort said the lift, which recently passed an inspection, was due to be replaced — possibly as early as this coming summer — partly because of vulnerability to wind. Five chairs fell 25 to 30 feet onto a ski trail below, Sugarloaf spokesman Ethan Austin said.
Jay Marshall, who was on a lift that was parallel to the one that broke, said his lift was moving but the other was not. There was a “loud snapping noise” after the lift restarted, he said, then some screams.
“The next thing I know, it was bouncing up and down like a yo-yo,” said Marshall, of Carrabassett Valley. He said it was too difficult to watch, so he looked away.
“It was terrifying,” he said.
Marshall said there was a worker atop the tower where the lift’s cable derailed, but noted that could have been a coincidence. It’s not uncommon to see workers on the lift towers, he said.
All told, there were about 150 skiers on the lift at the time, according to Sugarloaf, operated by Boyne Falls, Mich.-based Boyne Resorts. Sugarloaf workers used a pulley-like system to lower skiers to safety.
Eight people were taken 35 miles to Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, said Gerald Cayer, the hospital’s executive vice president. Two of them were transferred to Maine Medical Center in Portland, Cayer said.
The failed East Spillway lift is 4,013 feet long, gains 1,454 feet of elevation and nearly reaches the summit of 4,327-foot Sugarloaf, the state’s second-tallest mountain. It went into service in 1975 and was modified in 1983, according to Sugarloaf officials.
That lift and two others started the day on a “wind hold” because of the blustery weather, but Sugarloaf officials later deemed it safe to operate before the accident at 10:30 a.m., Austin said. Guidelines for “wind holds” include wind speed and other factors, he said.
Betsy Twombly of Falmouth said the resort had notified season pass holders like herself that the lift would be the first to be replaced under a 10-year improvement plan. Austin told reporters it was on a list of those to be upgraded, but declined to say when that was due to happen.
A website dedicated to Sugarloaf’s master plan said the first priority for lifts was to replace the twin east and west spillway lifts with a larger quad lift, partly because of vulnerability to the wind. The Bangor Daily News previously quoted John Diller, Sugarloaf’s general manager, as saying he hoped this would be the last winter for the lift.
“A fixed-grip quad will provide faster and more reliable transportation for skiers and, due to its additional weight, will be significantly less prone to wind holds than the current lift,” the website said.
Twombly witnessed the aftermath of the accident and praised the quick help from Sugarloaf workers, who she said worked calmly and efficiently to get people down from the lift and off the mountain.
“I expected to see hysteria, but there was none,” she said.
Sugarloaf assured visitors that its lifts are inspected each day.
“We haven’t had a derailment of this magnitude in the 60 years Sugarloaf has been in operation,” said Richard Wilkinson, vice president for mountain operations.
The lift was properly licensed and inspected for 2010, said Doug Dunbar of Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. Ski resort chair lifts fall under the jurisdiction of the department’s Board of Elevator and Tramway Safety, and two inspectors were dispatched to Sugarloaf, Dunbar said.
I can’t tell you how rare this is. But it’s probably making a lot of ski area operators think about checking their lifts, just in case.
So you think the winter months are no good for getting outside? Let me try to convince you otherwise.
A lot of people who dabble in the outdoors are looking to break free of office sounds, cell phones and e-mail. Solitude is the prize. Here’s a little secret: The cold shoos away the crowds.
But is it too uncomfortable to get outside in the deep freeze of winter? I don’t think so. Not if you prepare.
Oklahoma winters are relatively mild and mostly free of snow. It can get cold, and our winter winds to have a bite to them. But if you’re dressed right, you can have a great experience outside during winter. Some tips:
Dress in layers. Preferably, packable layers. Lightweight synthetics, fleeces, etc., can easily be stowed in a daypack if temps warm up, and then put back on when the wind kicks up for temperatures drop. Leave bulky clothes behind.
Steer clear of cotton. Cotton is durable, comfortable and breathes. It also soaks up and retains moisture, which is bad news when it’s cold. At best, you’ll feel clammy and cold. At worst, wet cotton clothing can contribute to hypothermia, which can be deadly.
Bring rain gear. Winter is a dry time in Oklahoma, but wet weather – rain, snow, sleet and ice – can occur. Even water-resistant clothing can get waterlogged, so rain gear is a good idea to have along.
Take a hat, and gloves, too. Some outdoor activities, like climbing, don’t mesh with gloves. But a hat and gloves can help regulate your body temperatures without forcing you to wear a ton of layers.
Bring plenty of food, water and sunscreen. Even though it’s cold, don’t be fooled into thinking you can’t get dehydrated. Bring two to three liters of water for a typical day trek. You burn more calories when it’s cold, so food is key. And just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you can’t suffer from sunburns. Bring lip balm, too.
These are just a few tips. Do your research. Learn what hunters, skiers and snowboarders have known for a long time: Cold-weather activities in the outdoors can be fun if you’re prepared.
Aside from opening day, this is the next biggest ski weekend of the season. From what I’ve read, things are looking pretty good on the slopes.
In particular, take a look at some of the places in southwestern Colorado. Twenty-five to 50 inches of snow in the past three days! Similar accumulations showed up throughout Utah. Taos in New Mexico got 7 inches of new snow in that same time period, which isn’t too shabby.
Here’s some links to Rocky Mountain ski areas:
New Mexico: http://www.skireport.com/newmexico/
Saw an interesting story on denverpost.com concerning a brewing controversy over the possible reintroduction of wolverines into the Colorado Rockies.
You can read the story here: http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_16907832
The issue: Ski resort operators are worried that introducing wolverines into the state may trigger government restrictions on how ski resorts can operate or expand.
Wolverines are under a protected status. The debate has arisen that pits the possible reintroduction of 30 wolverines vs. the interests of businesses, their owners and the people who work there.
This is a recurring issues in the west, where the most famous controversy erupted when wildlife officials began introduring wolves into places in the northern Rockies. Ranchers cried foul, citing big financial losses due to wolf predation.
What are your thoughts? Drop me a line and let me know what you think.
Speaking of wolves, there’s a plan by an environmental group to sue the U.S. government in an attempt to reintroduce wolves throughout the lower 48 states.
Here’s a story from The Associated Press:
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — An environmental group filed notice Tuesday that it intends to sue the federal government to force adoption of a plan to recover gray wolves across the lower 48 states.
The predators were poisoned and trapped to near-extermination in the United States in the last century. But they have bounced back in some wilderness areas over the last few decades.
Biologists with the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity said Tuesday they want to expand that recovery nationwide.
In the notice filed with the Interior Department, the group said it will sue within 60 days if the agency doesn’t start crafting a plan to expand wolf ranges. The Endangered Species Act requires the agency to be notified two months before a lawsuit is filed.
Despite making gains in some areas since the species was first listed as endangered in 1974, the gray wolf remains limited to about 5 percent of its historical range. About 6,000 wolves live in the lower 48 states. They are protected from hunting except in Alaska.
“Wolves once roamed nearly the whole country and down into Mexico,” said Noah Greenwald with the Center for Biological Diversity.
“We’ve learned from where wolves have been reintroduced that they have a tremendous benefit,” he said. “They force elk to move around more, which allows riparian vegetation to come back and increases songbirds, and they control coyote populations.”
Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has pushed to end federal protections for wolves and turn control over the animals over to the states.
Could wolves be coming to Oklahoma? I’ve been getting a steady stream of people commenting on mountain lion sightings. Wolves would make for an interesting — and potentially controversial — addition to the state’s list of predator species.
Ever been lost? Not like lost in a parking lot trying to find your car in the parking lot, or lost in a new city and you can’t find a specific address or street. I mean out in the bush, off trail, not sure where you are or how to get out.
If the answer is yes, let me toss in a few variables. Ever been lost in the dark? During bad weather? Now that can be scary. I came across this post courtesy of The Adventure Journal: http://aaronteasdale.blogspot.com/2010/12/winter-descends-on-kishenehn-glacier.html
This is a pretty fascinating read, given the extreme conditions the writer was dealing with and the presence of many large predators.
Do you have a similar story? Write me about it and I’ll share it with folks.
I normally don’t post much information about far west skiing, but if you’re going to be headed to Lake Tahoe for the Christmas and New Years holidays, you are in luck.
That part of the world recently received somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 feet of snow recently. Just in time for holiday skiers.
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to post text from the ski reports in Colorado and New Mexico. Very time-consuming. So I think I’m going to go back to posting links, and I’ll include more states.
From what I see, plenty of good snow has been reported in Colorado, and decent snows also in Utah and Wyoming. New Mexico continues to be on the dry side, but most of the ski areas there expect to open within a week.
Many of the anecdotal reports I’ve read have suggested that the Rockies could see heavy snow all season, which bodes well for skiers and boarders. Check back here and I’ll report more as I learn more. Here’s some links…
New Mexico: http://www.skireport.com/newmexico/
A little dry lately, but some good snows this week, particularly in central and northern Colorado. A bit dry thus far in New Mexico, but it’s early yet. These figures are courtesy of skireport.com. Have a look…
Base Lifts Surface 24-hour 72-hour
Ajax (Aspen) 23-25″ 5 of 8 PP 0″ 5″
Arapahoe Basin 35″ 5 of 7 PDR 0″ 9″
Beaver Creek 21-25″ 16 of 26 PDR 0″ 8″
Breckenridge 38-47″ 21 of 30 PDR 0″ 16″
Copper Mountain 42-52″ 11 of 22 PP 0″ 13″
Crested Butte 24-31″ 4 of 16 PDR 0″ 5″
Echo Mountain 18″ 3 of 3 PP 0″ 0″
Eldora 24″ 5 of 12 PP 0″ 0″
Keystone 24-29″ 13 of 20 PP 0″ 6″
Loveland 42″ 8 of 9 PP 0″ 14″
Monarch 28-31″ 3 of 7 PDR 0″ 5″
Ski Cooper 27-28″ — PDR 0″ 4″
Snowmass 19-36″ 11 of 24 PP 0″ 5″
Steamboat 40-57″ 8 of 20 PDR 0″ 8″
Sunlight 21-24″ 3 of 3 PP 0″ 2″
Telluride 28″ 7 of 18 PP 0″ 2″
Vail 20-31″ 26 of 34 PDR 0″ 14″
Winter Park 36-41″ 18 of 26 PP 0″ 7″
Wolf Creek 26-29″ 6 of 7 PDR 0″ 1″
Aspen Highlands: Plans to open Dec. 11
Buttermilk: Plans to open Dec. 11
Durango: Plans to open Dec. 10
Kendall Mountain: OpeningsSoon
Powderhorn: Plans to open Dec. 16
Silverton Mountain: Plans to open Dec. 11
SolVista: Plans to open Dec. 15
Base Lifts Surface 24-hour 72-hour
Ski Apache 12-14″ 3 of 10 PP 0″ 0″
Taos 12-15″ 4 of 13 HP 0″ 0″
Angel Fire: Plans to open Dec 16
Pajarito: Opening Sson
Red River: Plans to open Dec 10
Sandia Peak: Plans to open Dec 18
Sipapu: Plans to open Dec 10
Ski Santa Fe: Plans to open Dec 10
If you want more information on other states or the latest conditions, go to www.skireport.com.
It’s that time, folks. Time to make you ski plans. Here’s the first set of snow reports, courtesy of skireport.com. Have a look…
BASE LIFTS SURFACE 24 HR 72 HR
Ajax (Aspen) (1 day old) 25″ 3 of 8 PP – –
Arapahoe Basin 33″ 5 of 7 PP 3″ 4″
Beaver Creek 24″ 13 of 26 PDR 2″ 4″
Breckenridge 36-39″ 21 of 30 PDR 3″ 4″
Copper Mountain 35-39″ 9 of 22 PP 3″ 4″
Crested Butte 23-30″ 3 of 16 PP 1″ 1″
Eldora 20-26″ 4 of 12 PP 1″ 1″
Keystone 24-27″ 13 of 20 PDR 1″ 3″
Loveland 35″ 7 of 9 PP 4″ 6″
Monarch 27″ 3 of 7 PDR 0″ 2″
Snowmass (1 day old) 18-36″ 8 of 24 PP — –
Steamboat 41-59″ 4 of 20 PDR 1″ 10″
Telluride 30″ 7 of 18 PP 0″ 1″
Vail 20-26″ 20 of 34 PDR 2″ 7″
Winter Park 35-41″ 18 of 26 PDR 2″ 6″
Wolf Creek 24-32″ 5 of 7 PDR 0″ 0″
Aspen Highlands Plan to Open Dec 11
Buttermilk Plan to Open Dec 11
Durango Plan to Open Dec 3
Echo Mountain Plan to Open Dec 1
Kendall Mountain Opening Soon
Powderhorn Plan to Open Dec 16
Silverton Mountain Plans to Open Dec 4
Ski Cooper Plan to Open Dec 3
SolVista Plan to Open Dec 15
Sunlight Plan to Open Dec 3
BASE LIFTS SURFACE 24 HR 72 HR
Ski Apache 14-16″ 3 of 10 PP 0″ 0″
Taos 12-15″ 4 of 13 PP 0″ 1″
Angel Fire Plan to Open Dec 16
Pajarito Opening Soon
Red River Plan to Open Dec 3
Sandia Peak Plan to Open Dec 18
Sipapu Plan to Open Dec 4
Ski Santa Fe Plan to Open Dec 10
If you want to see more reports from other states, go to http://www.skireport.com/
With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, many Rocky Mountain ski resorts are getting ready to open. A few others already have their lifts running. Skiing and snowboarding are on the brain.
Last week, I posted something about fitness tips to get ready for ski season. But once you’re in shape, there are other considerations to prepare for. One of the biggest challenges we flatlanders face is dealing with altitude issues.
Here in Oklahoma City, most of us live somewhere between 1,000 feet and 1,300 feet above sea level. The air here won’t be much thinner than it would be at sea level. It’s thick and oxygen rich. The highest elevations people in Oklahoma live at are somewhere around 4,200 feet – thinner, but still pretty reasonable. Others live at elevations just over 400 feet.
Contrast that to what you’ll find at the base of most Rocky Mountain ski lifts. Most of them start somewhere between 8,000 and 9,000 feet. The air is remarkably thinner up there. At the top of a lift, you might be as high as 12,000 feet.
Altitude at these heights does a number of things to you. Since there’s less oxygen, your heart and lungs work harder. To compensate for the lack of oxygen, your body will try to make more red blood cells, which in turn will thicken the blood stream, making your circulatory system work even harder.
Vigorous exercise at high altitude will make you burn calories at a much higher rate than normal. Since you’ll be breathing more and harder, you will lose a lot of moisture through exhaling. This dehydrating effect is compounded by the fact that the air in the Rockies is already pretty dry.
Thickening blood and dehydration can cause headaches. Worse, these conditions, plus the increased calorie burn at altitude, can bring about altitude sickness.
The only cure for altitude sickness is to go a lower elevation. But prevention could help stave off this condition. Some things I’ve learned:
Hydrate early and often. Drink plenty of water in the days leading up to your trip. Don’t wait till you get to the ski lift to pound down a bottle of water. Start pumping the water down a few days in advance and keep up your hydration pace throughout your stay. You should have water with you as you ski and ride, and drink often, even if you don’t feel thirsty. If you wait until you’re thirsty, it’s pretty much too late. Caffeinated drinks and alcohol will work against you, so if you’re drinking coffee or chugging back a beer or two, you’ll need even more water to compensate.
Eat well. Get in a good balance of carbohydrates and proteins. Bring snacks with you on the mountain and stop to munch every now and then. Keeping your energy level up will help fight the effects of altitude.
Pace yourself. Even if you’re in good shape, you’re not in mountain shape if you live down here on the plains. Your first day on the hill should be measured. As your body acclimates, then you can push yourself more.
Speaking of acclimatizing… You need to give your body time, particularly if you’re flying in to your destination. Spend at least a day getting used to the altitude by taking it easy, going for brisk walks and just allowing your body to adjust.
Learn to love the baby aspirin. This is a standard part of my first-aid kit on the mountain for this reason: Aspirin helps thin the blood, allowing for a more free flow of your bloodstream. Start popping low-dose baby aspirins a day or two before your trip and in the mornings during your stay.
There are probably other tips to help deal with altitude issues, so do a little research and act accordingly. Have fun on the slopes!
I like it when my friends write about their experiences in the outdoors. Friend and co-worker Matt Patterson went to southeastern Oklahoma for a few days of hiking in Beavers Bend State Park. This is a good report, and I hope you enjoy it. And if you have some stories of your own, feel free to e-mail me your story and photos at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a read…
Beavers Bend State Park
Oklahoma may not be Colorado when it comes to its sheer trail miles, but there are a few hidden gems within our borders.
One is Beavers Bend State Park near Broken Bow. The park is home to the David Boren trail system and its 16 miles of wilderness adventure. With leaves peaking with color, fall is as good of a time as any to visit.
This was my second trip to the park with my hiking buddy Dale Moody who lives in Hartshorne, about two hours away.
The first time we did a section of the trail that is less strenuous. This time we took on the full might of the David Boren system – a three-mile section of Skyline Trail which runs about 4.5 miles total.
The sign at the trailhead says “For experienced hikers only” and they mean it. They don’t do switchbacks at Beavers Bend. There are tons of up and down, including two sections on the inbound hike that were close to a mile each straight up hills.
And when you aren’t battling hills, you’ll be battling ankle-busting sections of trail that wind around the mountains. Trekking poles are a must for these spots and negotiating the many gulleys along the way. Foot bridges not included.
On this trip our destination was Bee Creek which, was about 3 miles from the trailhead, but we stopped just short of the campsite since we found out on the way in from people we passed it was occupied by a troop of Boy Scouts.
There are several places that would make nice backcountry campsites along the way, with water sources in the form of creeks fed by Broken Bow Lake.
This system doesn’t loop so you backtrack on your way out, and our trip out was generally easier than it was going in. But regardless, it’s fun to test yourself on these trails. And when you’re not hiking you can throw in a line at the river where the trail begins. On the days we were there the banks were loaded with fly fishermen.
Red tape: There are no fees for overnight camping at Beavers Bend, but campers are encouraged to register with the park office before setting out. As with most state parks, fires are prohibited.
How to get there: From Oklahoma City the park is about 250 miles. Take Interstate 40 east to Henryetta. At Henryetta get on the Indian Nation Turnpike south. Exit at Antlers/Atoka State Highway 3 for 52 miles then get on US 259 north a short distance to reach the park.
Bring: A good pair of hiking boots with plenty of ankle support. In the fall, a 20-degree bag and a decent single wall tent will do. On the night we spent on the trail the temperature hovered in the mid 30s. It can get a little cooler if you overnight on top of one of the mountains.
Wildlife: This is bear country. Black bears, to be precise. We didn’t see any, but they’re out there. There were a couple of dumpsters along the way that looked like they had been raided the night before. If you see a bear count your blessings and enjoy the experience as most in our state are fairly timid and avoid humans.
The park doesn’t require bear cans or for campers to hang their food, but it’s probably a good idea not to keep food in your tent just the same. Besides bears, other assorted animals like raccoons and opossums populate the area.
– Matt Patterson
It’s cool and misty outside, and more chills are on the way. Further west, however, it’s snowing.
You all know where I’m going with this. Winter is no time to slow down, and for a lot of us it means it’s time to break out the skis and snowboards, grab the rest of our gear and head west to the Rockies.
A couple of places – Loveland and Arapaho Basin – are already open, courtesy of late fall snows and snowmaking machines. More places will be opening in the next couple of weeks. By mid-December, expect nearly every ski resort in the west to have their lifts running.
So now is the time to broach the subject of getting ready (physically speaking) for the slopes. I’ll get to the whole altitude thing another day. Let’s focus on physical preparation first…
Skiing and riding is about leg strength, core strength and balance. All these work hand in hand. So here’s some ideas on things to do to prep yourself for ski season:
Let’s start with the legs. Some of my favorite exercises:
1. Squats. With or without weight, depending on your fitness level. Keep your feet about shoulder width apart, toes slightly out and back straight. Squat down until your legs are parallel to the ground, then stand back up. Do eight to 10 repetitions. Take a short (1 minute) break, then do that again. Do three sets. This works both the front and back of the thighs as well as your buttocks. Squats are widely considered the best overall exercise for legs, and if done right, also strengthens your core.
2. Lunges. Again, this can be done holding a pair of light dumbells or no weight at all. From a standing position, lunge forward with one leg, then push your body back up to a standing position. Alternate legs for eight to 10 reps each leg, again, for three sets. This works the same muscles are squats, but in a different way. If you are a telemark skier, this exercise is one you should do regularly anyway. If squats are considered the No. 1 leg exercise ever, lunges are No. 1a. For an extra twist, do walking lunges up and down the gym floor or lunges to the side.
3. Calf raises. With your feet close together and legs straight (not locked), rise up on your toes, then down again slowly. Three sets of eight to 10 reps. Your calves do a lot more work than you think when you’re on the slopes.
4. Core work. Crunches, leg lifts and other abdominal exercises should be a part of your routine. They’ll help stabilize your upper body as you maneuver and reduce upper body fatigue. It will also help support the weight of your upper body, allowing your legs to be more focused on maneuvering. Also, don’t forget to work your lower back with exercises like supermans and back raises.
You can use other leg weight machines at your gym or at home, but I stuck with the squats and lunges because they are compound exercises, where you are teaching your body to use several muscle groups in conjunction. I think that’s more realistic.
Lastly, work on your cardiovascular strength. How you do it is up to you, whether it’s running, elliptical machines, bikes or something else. But you should try to get in 20 to 30 minutes of vigorous cardio work three times a week.
There’s a couple of reasons for this. First, the majority of us ski in the Rockies. Unlike east coast ski resorts, the Rockies are high elevation sites, with most runs starting above 9,000 feet. Most Oklahomans live at or below 1,200 feet. So the air is much thinner on the slopes, which will make your heart and lungs have to work harder.
Second (and this works in conjunction with the effects of altitude), a person who has a strong cardiovascular system doesn’t tire as easily as a person who is out of shape. And it’s when you’re tired that you’re more likely to have an accident. According to the netfit Web site, most accidents occur in the afternoon, when you’ve been at it all day. The unfit person will be on the low ebb of his or her energy; a fit person will remain strong right up to the time when the lifts are closed.
Ideally, you should begin training eight weeks before your trip, according to netfit. So there’s still plenty of time to get your body ready.