Out & About: Schweitzer avalanche indicates ice layer

Three skier buried, rescued quickly by other skiers

OUTSLIDE – Three skiers were buried, but quickly rescued by other skiers, in small inbounds avalanches on the Headwall at Schweitzer Mountain Resort on Dec. 7, Sean Briggs, resort spokesman, confirmed this week.

Observers say an ice layer from a thaw-freeze event earlier that week may have left a weak layer under subsequent snow accumulation in some backcountry areas.

The 5 inches of snow that slid on the ice layer might not have been a problem on other slopes, “but the skiers got caught in a terrain trap for the snow in a gully at the bottom,” Briggs said.

The Schweitzer Ski Patrol makes no forecasts for snow conditions outside the resort, but backcountry skiers should always ski in teams and do their own pit tests, he said.

“Skiing involves inherent risks, even inbounds,” he said. “Our snow safety supervisor, Tom Eddy, reminds skiers to always ski with a buddy, keep an eye on your buddy, and on deep snow days, wear beacons if you have them even within resort boundaries.”

Official avalanche surveys and advisories by the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center are set to begin Dec. 22 at idahopanhandleavalanche.org

Eagles count tops 200 at Wolf Lodge Bay

OUTSEE – A total of 204 bald eagles were counted Thursday in the Wolf Lodge Bay area of Lake Coeur d’Alene during their annual congregation to feast on spawning kokanee.

Thursday’s tally compares with 259 eagles surveyed during this same week in 2011, said BLM wildlife biologist Carrie Hugo. A record 273 bald eagles was counted on Dec. 29, 2011.

The annual Eagle Watch event with experts and spotting scopes available to the public is set for Dec. 26-30 at Mineral Ridge.

Don’t let holidays be inactive time for kids

OUTDO – Cheer up your child’s holiday by providing a chance to be in better shape when school reconvenes.

Here are a few modest outdoor alternatives to help break the laziness epidemic:

• Create an active holiday tradition, such as a ski trip, snowshoe trek, a walk into the woods to cut a Christmas tree or a visit to the skating rink.

• Sign up for an inexpensive outing of snowshoeing or skiing organized by Spokane Parks and Recreation outdoors program.

• Buy active holiday presents that will get kids moving.

• Create Your Own Winter Olympics with friends and neighbors. Kids who don’t want to participate can help judge.

• Give headlamps for gifts; experience a family night hike.

• Visit indoor activity centers, such as Wild Walls or the aquatic facilities at the Y’s.

• Go tracking if there’s snow at a local Conservation Futures area. Bring a tracks field guide and see what you can find.

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Rich Landers

Rich Landers

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