Fatal inbounds avalanches, like the one in Taos, often spur lawsuits against ski areas. They rarely get far. ~ The Colorado Sun

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Jason Blevins

The question is: Will the trend of unsuccessful lawsuits after fatal avalanches hold as ski areas expand into slide-prone terrain?

 

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Inbounds avalanches — like the one Thursday that swept down Taos’ Kachina Peak and killed a 26-year-old skier and critically injured another — are very rare at U.S ski resorts.

But fatal in-area avalanches do happen, with a handful of examples at resorts across the West in the last decade. And when they do, families sometimes sue, but rarely win as they test the court- and legislation-supported premise that avalanches are an inherent risk of skiing.

New Mexico’s ski safety legislation mirrors Colorado’s, with skiers shouldering responsibility for dangers inherent in the sport of skiing, including variations in terrain, trees, rocks, lift towers and snow conditions.

Families of skiers killed in avalanches in steep terrain have tested Colorado’s ski safety legislation in court, challenging the industry’s argument that avalanches are inherent risks of skiing. While the state’s highest court has ruled that resorts are protected from in-bounds avalanche lawsuits, at least one expert in ski law predicts more resorts skiers will die in avalanches as resorts open steeper, more avalanche-prone terrain.

It’s been almost six years since an avalanche inside a resort boundary claimed a life in Colorado. On Jan. 22, 2012, 13-year-old Taft Conlin was killed in an avalanche at Vail ski area and 28-year-old Christopher Norris was buried and killed in a slide at Winter Park’s Mary Jane ski area on the same day.

Both those deaths resulted in legal action, with the family of Norris pushing their wrongful death lawsuit to the Colorado Supreme Court.

The state’s high court in 2016 sided with Winter Park and the Colorado resort industry, ruling that the resort was protected from liability by the 1979 Ski Safety Act. That legislation shields resorts from lawsuits stemming from the death or injury of skiers caused by the inherent risks of skiing, defined by a lengthy list of difficult-to-mitigate dangers like weather, terrain and changing snow conditions. The court affirmed an appeals court decision, ruling that avalanches, while not specifically mentioned in the Ski Safety Act, were an inherent risk of skiing.

“The definition of ‘inherent dangers and risks of skiing’ … specifically includes ‘snow conditions as they exist or may change,’” reads the Supreme Court’s decision. “By its plain meaning, this phrase encompasses an in-bounds avalanche, which is, at its core, the movement, or changing condition, of snow.”

The family of Conlin sued Vail arguing the ski area violated the Ski Safety Act by not property closing a gate accessed by the teen and his friends. A jury in June 2018 sided with Vail, but the family is appealing the decision.

MORE: Colorado Ski Safety Act tested in two trials involving in-bounds avalanche

Lawsuits in Utah and Wyoming also have tested the idea that in-area avalanches are an inherent risk of skiing.

In December 2007, a Grand Junction resident and volunteer ski patroller at Powderhorn was killed in a large inbounds avalanche at Canyons Resort in Utah. The family of Jesse Williams sued American Skiing Co., then the ski area’s owner. A trial court declined the resort’s motion for summary judgement to dismiss the case, ruling the avalanche was not an inherent risk of skiing as outlined in Utah’s Skiers Safety Act. A jury in November 2013 sided with the resort, deciding that the Canyons demonstrated “reasonable care” in its efforts to mitigate avalanche risk in that area of the resort.

~~~  CONTINUE  ~~~

Officials identify 26-year-old man from Massachusetts killed in Taos Ski Valley avalanche

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Officials have confirmed the identity of the skier killed Thursday (Jan. 17) in an inbounds avalanche at Taos Ski Valley as Matthew Zonghetti, 26, of Mansfield, Massachusetts.

The second skier caught in the avalanche remained in critical condition Friday afternoon at University of New Mexico Hospital, according to Alex Sanchez, public information officer for the facility. His name has not been confirmed by officials yet.

According to WHDH-7News Boston, Zonghetti’s identity was confirmed by Teresa Murphy, the superintendent of Mansfield Public Schools. With complete biographical details pending, Zonghetti played football and lacrosse in high school.

Editor Craig Borges of The Sun Chronicle in Massachusetts noted Zonghetti was a high school sports “All Star” featured in their paper. A Sun Chronicle article names Zonghetti in their Mansfield High School Class of 2010 list.

Tim Frias was Zonghetti’s high school lacrosse coach – and most notably, he was the ski club advisor when Zonghetti was in high school from 2006-2010.

“Matt was an expert skier. He had big mountain experience. We would go skiing out there [West] all the time. Skiing was a way of life for him. I have one hundred percent confidence in his skiing ability in the terrain he was in.”

The Taos News staff photojournalist Morgan Timms was on scene Thursday after the avalanche, which occurred in the rugged terrain below Kachina Peak, and recognized town of Taos councilor Darien Fernandez as one of the rescue volunteers.

Fernandez confirmed Friday (Jan. 18) he was a volunteer who joined in the rescue effort after the avalanche. Fernandez used to work at Taos Ski Valley and received avalanche training from the resort’s ski patrol.

“I was skiing as a passholder and unloaded Chair 4 almost immediately after the avalanche happened. I clicked out of my skis and immediately volunteered to help, as I have avalanche training,” Fernandez said.  “I jumped in on the digging team for the first person located. I was in the hole with patrol when we uncovered the person, and I helped clear the snow from around his head and body while patrol established an airway. I then stepped out and joined a probe line for the next two hours.”

Fernandez said that the avalanche “hit close to home for me,” as his eldest brother Garrett Gravelle was killed in an avalanche in Telluride in 1987.

From a ski industry professional’s standpoint, Fernandez said, “I would add that beacons should be required for that terrain, and other people have called for that for years.”

Former New Mexico Governor and Taos resident Gary Johnson was also at the avalanche rescue scene. He appeared briefly on a KOAT broadcast Thursday night (Jan. 17) and he shared more of his experience with The Taos News Friday. A former University of New Mexico ski racer, Johnson has been skiing Taos Ski Valley “for years.”

“I was hiking the ridge like so many were. I saw that they had opened the Kachina Peak Lift chair to the public,” Johnson said. “So I cut my hike short and dropped down the Corner Pocket chute to Chair 4. I had heard that an avalanche had just occurred. I got to the top [of the lift ride] and saw it.”

Johnson stressed that his biggest takeaway from the whole incident was just how feverishly 200 people were trying to find the two skiers – and  a reported third skier whom some thought earlier was caught in the avalanche. “There wasn’t anyone unwilling to get out there and help.”

Officials later reported the two men were the only skiers caught in the avalanche.

The K3 chute is Johnson’s favorite run and he was actually heading there. Describing the run, he said, “There is not a choke on it. I have found it to be consistent from top to bottom. I know over the years having skied it so often, it does slide. But after it slides, it does get packed down.”

Referring to the large base of local skiers and visitors who delight in the Kachina Peak runs, Johnson said,  “It could’ve been any one of us. No one is to blame. These things do happen.”

Taos Ski Valley issued at statement expressing deep sadness over yesterday’s events and noted the the entire Taos Ski Valley team, guests and the local community are grieving.  “Right now we are conducting our accident review, as we do following all on-mountain accidents.  An in-bounds avalanche is extraordinarily rare and a situation like this has never happened at Taos Ski Valley before. The Taos Ski Valley Ski Patrol conducts avalanche mitigation daily and regularly checks the mountain throughout the day.”

Deep in Bears Ears Country

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A sandstone tower in the Valley of the Gods, with Cedar Mesa in the background. President Trump’s executive order removed both areas from the Bears Ears National Monument.

GORDON WILTSIE
A sandstone tower in the Valley of the Gods, with Cedar Mesa in the background. President Trump’s executive order removed both areas from the Bears Ears National Monument.

The sacred site where nomads once hunted woolly mammoths and Native Americans survived the Long Walk is under siege from the federal government

 

Spring 1973: My first glimpse of the Bears Ears country was a revelation.

Every square foot of earth has its own compulsive magic, Lawrence Durrell once wrote.

Here in the lost dry canyon country of Southern Utah was the absolute living proof, with enough square footage to reach the vanishing point of the western horizon, as far as the eye could see, extending even beyond the eye’s imagination.

My friend and I had just driven up the switchbacks out of Paradox Valley in the corner of southwestern Colorado, and we were gazing across into Utah. Well, the road map said it was Utah, but that was clearly wrong. This country before us didn’t belong to the 20th century, the Industrial Age, the Beehive State … it lay in a kind of Altered State, the zone the experts relegate to dreams, hallucinations and visions.

We had reached a kind of frontier in space and time, and we were gazing down into the very bedrock of North America, a petrified world of towers, domes, minarets, mazes, abysses, with mountains like the Abajos, La Sals and Henrys rearing up here and there, and roan cliffs topped by bone-white mesas without names.

Over the following decades, my friends and I spend months, whole seasons, lost years’ worth of timeless time roaming the Cedar Mesa/Bears Ears country, from Navajo Mountain and the San Juan River in the south, to the Abajo Mountains and Indian Creek to the north, and west to the Escalante canyons.

After a time, the landscape seems to hear our voices and footsteps, our scrambling descents into lost sepulchers, the paddle and splash of our rafts and kayaks down remote river gorges; the earth here listens, and sometimes replies.

One winter evening, hiking alone down Kane Gulch to its junction with the main canyon, I find myself standing in the trail facing Junction Ruin, an ancient Anasazi village site perched on the side of the opposite cliff. The shadows are deepening, and it is getting cold. I consider where to make camp and how to conjure a campfire out of sticks and shreds of bark when a strange thought comes to me out of nowhere. “I wish I would see an owl,” I hear myself say aloud.

A moment later, a shadow emerges from the ghostly riprap walls of the ruin and flies toward me, swift as an arrow. I stand there transfixed as an owl, silent as sleep, grazes my forehead then vanishes behind me up the gulch. Something drifts down in its wake and lands near my feet: a Great Horned Owl’s feather from one of the bird’s great wings, a feather barred dark on white, to mingle with moonlight, starlight and shadow. Great Horned Owl, Né’éshjaá in Navajo language.

The Valley of the Gods, a 17-mile-long expanse removed from the Bears Ears National Monument by President Trump.GORDON WILTSIE
The Valley of the Gods, a 17-mile-long expanse removed from the Bears Ears National Monument by President Trump.
PAST AS MYSTERY

We are just strangers, trespassers here, no matter what we believe. Some 30,000 years ago, Neolithic nomads hunted wooly mammoths in this place and in the neighboring mountains. It was a wetter, richer world, watered by the shrinking glaciers; some of their major kill sites have been unearthed as far away as Aspen. They pressure-flaked elegant points and tools and may have lived in pit houses, or as likely moved from camp to camp. To anthropologists, they are a koan, wrapped in a riddle and bound in musk ox twine: a complete mystery. We do not know their lives in detail.

They were part of the great wave of wandering hunters, people from Central Asia and Siberia who crossed the Bering land bridge into an unpopulated New World, walking eventually to South America, all the way down to Tierra del Fuego.

A summer thundershower drifts across a desert forest on Cedar Mesa, an area previously protected as part of the Bears Ears National Monument. Navajo Mountain, a Native American sacred site, rises in the far distance.GORDON WILTSIE
A summer thundershower drifts across a desert forest on Cedar Mesa, an area previously protected as part of the Bears Ears National Monument. Navajo Mountain, a Native American sacred site, rises in the far distance.
A LIVING LANDSCAPE

Jump ahead 2,000 years. The landscape had become drier, much as it is today, and the Anasazi, the ancestors of today’s Pueblo tribes, were struggling to survive, farming despite fickle springs, rainfalls and snowmelts, hunting in the wilderness. In this place, they prospered for a while and then vanished.

On the constant edge of survival, they found time to create breathtaking art on pottery and on the rock landscape itself, before a mega-drought and the resulting wars over dwindling resources drove them out.

The greatest art gallery in North America lies under southern Utah. Follow a crooked crevice into a shadowy niche and there, pecked in the rock, is a school of tadpoles that almost wiggle as you watch them. You think, tadpoles, in the desert? And then you remember some rainy springtimes out here, when every tinaja and pool in the rock rang with courting frogs, and what springs like that must have meant to dry-land farmers like the Anasazi. Which also explains the shamanic figure you saw carved on a rock, a magus standing under his own private rainstorm … It must be nice, it must be nice, to have the Rain Gods on your side.

In other places across these rocks, you see snakes that turn into lightning bolts, and the fertility god Kokopelli with his humpback full of seeds and his flute and his titanic erection, and a head that sometimes sprouts antennae like a cricket, the kind that sing in the ripening corn plants.

You also discover desert big horn and elk, cranes, grizzly bear tracks, star systems, warriors holding scalps that still weep streams of tears, dancers, men with birds’ heads for bodies, and gods with no heads at all … and rows of disembodied heads wearing their enemies’ faces (or so some say).

The best of them jump out at you, like a Klee or a Picasso, from a cliff by the trail or high on a rimrock — a canvas no human has seen since the artist walked away centuries ago, thinking thoughts we can only guess.

The descendants of the Anasazi still come here on pilgrimages to their ancestral graves and holy places; they chant and burn cedar and sage at springs — still marked with the signs of the clans, two millenia old, to which they still belong, though they live in pueblos in the distant south.

This landscape is still very much alive in their spirits. And for the Utes and Navajo, who still live around here, even more so.

Navajo leader Mark Maryboy at Twin Rocks, a natural formation in Bluff, Utah.GORDON WILTSIE
Navajo leader Mark Maryboy at Twin Rocks, a natural formation in Bluff, Utah.
MANUELITO’S LEGACY

Mark Maryboy lives in Montezuma Creek, on the San Juan River, but he was actually born in the Bears Ears, on the high-forested edge of the Abajos. His family’s clan took refuge there after returning from the infamous 1864 Long Walk, where those alive after Kit Carson’s ethnic cleansing campaign across Navajo country were forced into exile at Bosque Redondo. Close to a third of the exiles died before the rest straggled home.

Maryboy, now in his 50s, has seen his life begin with the Bears Ears and return there. When we meet at the Twin Rocks Trading Post cafe in the little town of Bluff, I remind him that we met 30 odd years ago, when he first ran for election for San Juan County commissioner. Back then, gerrymandering and deliberate voter suppression had denied the county’s Navajos, half of the county’s population, any say in the political system they lived under.

It took courage for him to run; during his election campaign, I clearly remember overhearing local sheriff’s deputies in a Bluff cafe talk about lynching the young man after Maryboy announced his candidacy. When I ask him about it today, he just laughs. He is still tough as saddle leather, rides broncos on the Navajo Nation rodeo circuit, and keeps up a sheep camp south by Red Mesa, when he isn’t running his consulting business out of Montezuma Creek.

Maryboy’s people have always been leaders. His family are related to the legendary Navajo hero Manuelito. When they returned from the Long Walk, the family deliberately chose to settle next to Bears Ears, away from the U.S. government’s representatives in the central part of the reservation. Reminiscing about his forebears, he mentions in particular his great grandfather, Owl, who seems to have been preternaturally wise and strong. Maryboy’s grandfather became a member of the Navajo Tribal Council, representing the Navajo north of the San Juan. The council met at the tribal capital in Window Rock, N.M., and every month for years he rode his horse 159 miles south to Window Rock and 159 miles home when the meetings were over.

Bolts of lightning near Mexican Hat Rock, which marked the southern border of the original Bears Ears National Monument.GORDON WILTSIE
Bolts of lightning near Mexican Hat Rock, which marked the southern border of the original Bears Ears National Monument.

When he was 6 years old, Maryboy’s family was living across the San Juan from Bluff when word came that Bobby Kennedy was coming through Bluff. His uncle walked with him across the river on the old wooden footbridge.

Somehow, the little boy ended up face to face with the fiery young barnstormer, and something passed between them — perhaps it was the beginning of the awakening of Maryboy’s rare talent, to think locally and globally, across cultural and racial barriers, at the same time.

Later, as the lone Navajo on the three-person San Juan County Commission, he was continually subjected to a campaign of racial insults and slurs from the other two commissioners, both white Mormon not-so-good old boys. He doesn’t go into detail about what he was subjected to except to say, with a rueful smile, “It was bad.”

Maryboy, brilliant but shy, was raised to be polite and deferential to strangers. Lost in the nakedly intolerant world of southeast Utah politics — San Juan County has been called “the most racist county in America” — it was difficult for him to say what was on his mind and in his heart.

Finally, in desperation, he went to see the foremost of the local hatali (the word is customarily translated as “Singers,” but they are really healers — of people and the world around them). The Singer used crystals as divining rods to diagnose what was freezing Maryboy’s tongue in his mouth. After using the appropriate medicine to cure him, he told Maryboy he had given him the courage to speak out and the skill to use it.

From then on, Maryboy openly battled his opponents on the commission, giving as good as he got.

Eloquence and wit are two of the Navajos’ most striking characteristics, in my observation. When I was a young grad student, working on the reservation, I stopped once at a trading post. A 40ish Navajo in a cowboy hat and dusty jeans stopped me in the aisle.

“Poor Elvis,” he said sadly. The King had been dead for decades, but I agreed, yes.

It was sad. He looked me in the eye pityingly and nodded, “Elvis and Hitler, the White Man’s greatest leaders — dead!” This last word intoned almost like a moan and, shaking his head mournfully, he turned and walked away. I could almost hear the laughter bubbling deep inside him.

Ancient Native American petroglyphs carved into a sandstone boulder beneath Comb Ridge, which is still protected by Bears Ears National Monument. Countless other archaeological sites now fall outside the monument’s new — and contested — boundaries.GORDON WILTSIE
Ancient Native American petroglyphs carved into a sandstone boulder beneath Comb Ridge, which is still protected by Bears Ears National Monument. Countless other archaeological sites now fall outside the monument’s new — and contested — boundaries.
HOLY NATURE

Beginning in 2010, Navajos living in southeastern Utah began evolving a plan for a national monument to protect the area. Maryboy and a group of other Navajos interviewed dozens of tribal elders and collected a great trove of traditional stories confirming the long Navajo connection with the land, how its geography is woven into the tribe’s religion. Over the following years, a coalition of Native American tribes with religious and cultural ties to Cedar Mesa, the Abajos, the Escalante Canyons, including the Utes, Hopis, Zunis and one or two Rio Grande pueblos, began recording their own connections to the area.

In 2014, San Juan County, where most of the monument would be located, inaugurated a 45-day public comment period. The result: 65 percent of respondents favored the monument. In response, county commissioner Phil Lyman celebrated his 50th birthday by leading an armed corps of followers on ATVs on an illegal gathering in Recapture Wash, one of the most important Anasazi sites still revered by modern Puebloans. He was tossed in jail for his crime; he and his followers remained unrepentant.

Despite everything, the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition presented its plan for the monument to President Barack Obama on Oct. 15, 2015. The proposed monument would protect the 1.35 million acres, its breathtaking landscapes, its ancient art and architecture and its countless living religious sites, from the threat of further damage and destruction. It would be a different kind of park, one that would preserve Native American religious and cultural rights while preserving the non-mechanized wilderness recreation opportunities for hikers, river rafters, rock climbers and wanderers.

This map shows how Bears Ears has been reduced from 1.35 million acres to just 200,000 acres.MAPPING SPECIALIST
At stake: 1.1 million acres of sacred land.

It was a marvelously original concept: The Park Service and the Native American tribes would jointly administer it, with the public’s right to revel in beauty and the Native Americans’ right to religious freedom both guaranteed in perpetuity.

The Obama Administration strongly supported the idea, and on Dec. 28, 2016, by executive proclamation, it formally announced the establishment of Bears Ears National Monument. But then the dream froze in space, where it remains.

Utah politicians tend to loathe wilderness (even though, ironically, their state thrives on it). As soon as the national political scene changed, they seized their chance.

On Dec. 4, 2017, newly elected President Donald Trump announced that Bears Ears National Monument would be downsized by 85 percent – more than a million acres, reducing it to 201,876 acres in two enclaves dozens of miles apart. The executive order would open up the rest of this most splendid territory to oil and potash mining, not to mention uncontrolled off-road hot rodding and the inevitable looting of archeological sites.

Currently, the fate of Bears Ears is tied up in a tangle of court cases, its future in doubt. No one knows how long the process will take, nor how it will end. On one side are the usual suspects, led by the oil companies and mining industries and their lobbyists and political allies — a powerful cabal, especially in today’s political climate.

But the other side is strong, and getting stronger: It now includes environmental groups like The Wilderness Society, the leaders of the outdoor industry, led by Yvon Chouinard and Patagonia, and Native American tribes all across the country. Even the United Nations Human Rights Council has issued a statement supporting the monument on the grounds of religious freedom.

One longtime San Juan River guide, a belagona with the heart of a Navajo, asked: “If they’re going to start tearing down people’s holy places, why don’t they start with the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City?”

Indeed, the Bears Ears case may compel the courts to resolve a question as ancient as America: If a people’s holiest sites are mountains, lakes or mesas, aren’t they due the same respect as man-made shrines, the cathedrals and mosques of other faiths?

Rob Schultheis has written books about the wild American West (‘Fool’s Gold’), wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (‘Hunting Bin Laden’), and the cutting edge of extreme sports (‘Bone Games’).

More Bad News ~ Avalanche buries multiple people near Kachina Peak

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Two skiers extracted, more may still be missing

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According to a press release from the resort, an “inbounds avalanche” occurred in chute four on Kachina Peak just before noon, burying at least two people near the base of the run.

Members of Taos Ski Valley Ski Patrol and other first responders searching the snow had extracted two skiers just before 1 p.m. and performed CPR on them, but are uncertain if anyone else may have been buried in the slide.

According to Chris Stagg, vice president of public affairs for the ski valley, the skiers – both male – were still alive as of 2 p.m. and had been taken down the mountain to the resort’s Mogul Medical Clinic.

Other rescuers are using avalanche probes, shovels and the help of rescue dogs to search the area of the avalanche for anyone else who may still be buried beneath the snow, Stagg said.

According to Taos News photographer Morgan Timms, who was at the scene of the accident on Thursday, the snow from the avalanche is so deep that the probes, which are as long as 30 feet, could not reach the bottom of the snowpack.

A woman at the scene of the rescue effort who spoke with Timms on the condition of anonymity said she could see – and hear – the moment of the collapse.

“I see two people trying to come down and a third person on the left. They were really good skiers it looked like,” she said and then directed Timms attention to a point near the top of the steep run. “I turned my back to put my bindings on … and then I heard a sound. It sounded like an earthquake coming.”

The witness said a cloud of snow rushed down the run, but she couldnt’ see how many people were buried once the slide settled.

Medics with Taos County Emergency Services and firefighters with Taos Volunteer Fire Department are on standby at the base of the resort as the search continues.

The Kachina Peak Ski Valley lift, which provides easy access to expert terrain at the top of the mountain, opened on Jan. 15. It was built in 2015, providing access to sections of the mountain which were previously only accessible on foot.

Stagg said members of the mountain’s ski patrol team had detonated explosives in the area of Kachina Peak early Thursday morning in an effort to reduce the risk of avalanche.

While the rescue operation continues into Thursday afternoon, the Kachina Peak lift has been closed and lift four has been closed temporarily. Other lifts are still operating.

This is a developing story.

Photographer Morgan Timms and Cody Hooks contributed to this report.

 

 

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One skier dies, second critically injured after avalanche at Taos Ski Valley

Ski resort begins investigation

Updated Jan. 17 at 10:14 p.m.

One man has died and another remained hospitalized with critical injuries Thursday night (Jan. 17) after an avalanche near Kachina Peak in Taos Ski Valley.

Holy Cross Hospital CEO Bill Patten confirmed that one of the men who was treated at their facility in Taos had died of his injuries just before 5 p.m.

Officials had not released the identity of either victim as of late Thursday night.

According to a press release from the ski resort, which is one of the largest in Northern New Mexico, an “inbounds avalanche” occurred in chute “K3” just before noon, burying the two skiers near the 12,481-foot peak.

Rescuers searching the base of the couloir extracted the men just before 1 p.m. Medics then performed CPR before rushing them to a clinic at the base of the resort.

According to a report heard on Taos Central Dispatch, a medic transporting one of the men in an ambulance to Holy Cross Hospital said she had “one male trauma patient,” for whom she had established an IV and an intubator, a medical device that helps a person breath when they are unconscious.

The second victim also suffered critical injuries and was flown by helicopter to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.

As of press time Thursday night, he was still being treated at the facility.

The search for others who might have been buried in the avalanche was called off after 2 p.m., with rescuers determining there to be “no additional victims,” according to the resort’s press release.

During their search, dozens of rescuers used avalanche probes, shovels and the help of search-and-rescue dogs to search the area under the peak for anyone else who might have been swept under the snow.

According to Taos News photographer Morgan Timms, who was at the scene of the accident on Thursday, the accumulation created by the avalanche was so deep that the probes could not reach the bottom of the snowpack in some areas.

A woman at the scene who spoke with Timms on the condition of anonymity said she could see – and hear – the moment the snow collapsed on Thursday.

“I see two people trying to come down and a third person on the left. They were really good skiers it looked like,” she said. “I turned my back to put my bindings on … and then I heard a sound. It sounded like an earthquake coming.”

The witness said a cloud of snow rushed down the run, but she couldn’t see how many people had been buried once it settled. Rescuers at the scene, however, ultimately determined that no one else was buried in the accident.

The Kachina Peak Ski Valley lift, which provides easy access to expert terrain at the mountain’s peak, opened this season on Jan. 15. It was built in 2015, providing access to sections of the mountain which were previously only accessible on foot.

Chris Stagg, vice president of public relations at the resort, said members of the Taos ski patrol team had detonated explosives in the area of Kachina Peak early Thursday morning in an effort to reduce the risk of an avalanche.

The Sangre de Cristo Mountains where the resort is located has received significant snowfall since the new year after a series of storms.

An employee at the ski valley for over 46 years, Stagg said he could not recall an incident like the one that happened on Thursday.

“It’s certainly very rare,” he said.

Signs are posted to warn skiers and snowboarders that the terrain around Kachina Peak can be dangerous, he said, but no special equipment, such as a beacon that can be used to locate avalanche victims, is required to ride the lift to reach it.

This is a developing story.

Reporters Morgan Timms, Jesse Moya and Cody Hooks contributed to this report.

See Samuel L. Jackson Poetry Slam News, Get ‘Motherf–ker’ Bleeped on ‘Fallon’ ~ RollingStone

“I don’t care if it’s concrete, steel or papier mâché. Guess what, Donald, Mexico ain’t gonna pay,” the actor rhymes

Samuel L. Jackson showed off his formidable poetry slam skills during The Tonight ShowStarring Jimmy Fallon, where he took on the government shutdown news and President Trump’s border wall. The Roots set the mood with a jazzy soundtrack as host Jimmy Fallon and Jackson took turns at the mic.

Fallon led off the slam, launching with a joke on the Oscars not having a host. “Might seem wrong without an opening song, but the show must go on” he quipped. “Besides it’s still gonna be nine hours long. Yawn,” Fallon added, snapping to the rhythm. The pair took turns, with Fallon also addressing winter storms and New Year’s resolutions.

Jackson joined in for the snaps before taking center stage to lament the government shutdown. “Longest shut down in history,” he began, drawling out the first word for emphasis. “The record is beat, what a feat/People hitting the street while the elite compete/Resources deplete,” he rhymed. “If only they could shut down the President’s tweets.”

The actor also lambasted Trump’s drive for a Mexican border wall. “Wall, wall, wall,” Jackson repeated. “Wall, wall, wall, is that all, all, all you can say?/I don’t care if it’s concrete, steel or papier mâché/Guess what, Donald, Mexico ain’t gonna pay/No way, Jose.”

Before he could finish his couplets, Fallon cut him off from delivering the swear word he is famous for using. “So cut it out, ’cause we ain’t no suckers,” Jackson said. “Come up with the money yourself, you cheap motherf–.”

However, Jackson continued and got the bleep treatment. “The TSA is M.I.A./They’re calling in sick, ’cause the government’s shut down and work is a bitch/So keep your laptop in the bag/And keep those shoes on, the workers are gone/So just blame it on Don. Things are sliding past security/Man, it’s getting insane,” he asserted as his voice rose for the ultimate punchline. “I’ve had it with these mother(bleep) snakes on these mother(bleep) plane.”

Misjudgments led to fatal avalanche on Red Mountain Pass ~ Durango Herald

Combination of factors contributed to man’s death

The area where two avalanches killed a backcountry skier who was taking part in a Silverton Avalanche School course earlier this month on Red Mountain Pass.

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Photos From the 2019 Dakar Rally

With a ceremonial start in Lima, Peru, on January 7, a group of 334 competitors started the 41st annual Dakar Rally: a 10-day, 3,000-mile (5,000 kilometer) off-roading adventure held exclusively in Peru this year. The vehicles—which include specialized cars, trucks, motorcycles, and quad bikes—are currently on stage 9 of 10 stages that travel south to Tacna, then back to Lima on January 17. 

Motorbikes start on the sand followed by a TV helicopter during stage 5 of the 2019 Dakar Rally between Moquegua and Arequipa on January 11, 2019, on Los Palos beach.main_1200-1.jpg

 

Honda’s Chilean biker Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo competes during stage 8 of the Dakar 2019 between San Juan de Marcona and Pisco, Peru, on January 15, 2019.

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The Slovak KTM rider Stefan Svitko competes during stage 6 of the 2019 Dakar Rally on January 13, 2019

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KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price flies across the desert during stage 7 near San Juan de Marcona, Peru, on January 14, 2019

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