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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday — March 5, 2004


Forest officials warn avalanche danger’s high

By Express Staff

The U.S. Forest Service is warning backcountry skiers and snowmobilers about high avalanche danger in the Ketchum-Stanley area.

The warning, renewed from last week, came Monday after a snowmobiler died in an avalanche over the weekend.

Janet Kellam, director of the Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center in Sun Valley, said the snowpack in Idaho’s south-central mountains is just waiting for a trigger.

"Conditions are deceptive," she said. "You won’t have the cracking and collapsing of snow. The typical warning signs won’t be there."

Avalanche experts are worried because they expect many snowmobilers this weekend in the Stanley area for the Idaho State Snowmobile Association’s ride.

Avalanche Center experts investigated a 450-foot-wide, 700-foot-long avalanche that killed a snowmobiler Saturday in the Apollo Creek drainage, a tributary of Baker Creek north of Ketchum.

Justin Frederickson, 29, of Kimberly, died after being buried for about 20 minutes in the snow. His snowmobile triggered the slide, according to the Blaine County Sheriff’s Department.

Other riders administered CPR but were unable to resuscitate him.

Kellam, who was trapped herself in an avalanche in the Baker Creek area two years ago, said Central Idaho currently has a snowpack with several weak, underlying layers and the potential to produce large, destructive avalanches like the avalanche that resulted in Frederickson’s death.

The avalanche danger is heightened by weak layers in the snowpack, with fresh snow layered above iced snow, Kellam said. She said the frosty snow is like ball bearings between two other layers.

Avalanche terrain is approximately any slope that is steeper than 30 degrees and, in particular, terrain with mid-30 degree slopes angle or steeper, according to the Avalanche Center. A good comparison: advanced intermediate ski runs are approaching 30 degrees and expert ski runs typically have sections that approach 35 degrees or steeper.

"We’d like to remind people that Central Idaho has lots of safe, low angle terrain," the avalanche Center reports. "It is very possible to get out and have a great time this weekend, but please avoid the steeper slopes as the current avalanche conditions are deceptive and somewhat unpredictable."

Check the avalanche Web site and hotline for the daily 7 a.m. Avalanche and Mountain Weather Advisory: 208-622-8027, www.avalanche.org and click Sun Valley. For avalanche basics, check the Forest Service National Avalanche Center Web site www.fsavalanche.org.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.