Epic Pass holders will be able to ski five free days at Niseko next season.     Photo: Getty Images

Vail Invades Japan

Niseko added to Epic Pass

This week Vail Resorts announced the addition of the Niseko collective to the list of mountains where skiers can use the 2014–2015 Epic Pass. Niseko is Japan’s premier ski destination, on the southwest corner of the island of Hokkaido. It receives close to 600 inches of snow per year and has been the backdrop for numerous ski films, including Sweetgrass Productions’ 2009 Signatures and Felt Soul Media’s 2012 Unicorn Sashimi.

The move continues a trend of adding new resorts to the Epic package each ski season. This time around, Vail took over skiing operations at Utah’s Canyons resort while offering five consecutive days in each of Verbier, Switzerland; Arlberg, Austria; and Les Trois Vallées, France. The pass, which sold for $709 this year, currently works like an unlimited season pass at U.S. resorts including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Utah’s Canyons resort, and Lake Tahoe, California’s Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood.

As American ski areas have continued to struggle with several years of erratic and diminishing snowfall, Niseko, along with lesser known ski areas in British Columbia like Whitewater and Revelstoke, have gained prominence among expert skiers who are willing to traverse the planet in search of fresh snow. The addition of Niseko to the Epic Pass should make it a bit easier to ski Japan and also increase Vail Resorts’ claim on one of the best deals in skiing. 


Tiger Angry Attack

A tiger can kill a man in less than 30 seconds.     Photo: Claudio Gennari/Flickr

Death Warrant for Man-Eating Tiger

Killed 10 people since December

Officials in Uttar Pradesh, India, have issued a shoot-to-kill order for a tigress that has killed 10 people since early December. The four-year-old Royal Bengal tiger has attacked villagers of all ages, prowling an 80-mile area in the Binjor District.

The situation has placed the livelihoods of local villagers at stake, as people are afraid to work in the fields harvesting sugarcane, mustard, and wheat. "We will starve if this situation persists," Sahuwala village resident Mithilesh told CNN.

Tigers that have turned man-eater rarely go back to hunting wildlife, and it’s clear this tigress is no exception. "She's gotten used to killing people,” wildlife conservationist Nazim Khan told CNN. “This is easy prey for her. She's going to kill again."

Both conservationists and hunters are tracking the tigress, riding atop elephants through impenetrable jungle and terrain. Though conservationists would rather see the tigress tranquilized and transported to a zoo, hunters and most villagers are in support of seeking vengeance via rifle.

Only 11 percent of tigers’ natural habitat remains, according to the Wildlife Trust of India, and there are only 1,706 tigers left in the wild.

Man-Eating Tigress Prowls India


Vail Resorts destroyed this elaborate "smoke shack" at Breckenridge Ski Resort last week.    

Vail Resorts Blows Up “Smoke Shack”

At Breckenridge Ski Resort

Skiers and riders are all fired up after officials at Breckenridge Ski Resort blew up a log cabin last week that was being used to sneak a few tokes between runs.

Vail Resorts, which owns Breckenridge, apparently decided to destroy the elaborate “smoke shack” after Inside Edition published a report showing that the cabin was used to secretly smoke marijuana. The skiing stoners would then try to make it down the mountain—often somewhat unsuccessfully.

A spokesman for Vail Resorts told KDVR-TV that the company has zero tolerance for such buildings on its mountains.

This isn’t the first smoke shack to be eliminated—and it probably won’t be the last. According to Vail Resorts, the company has destroyed several similar structures over the past several weeks at its other Colorado resorts.  

“Vail Resorts works closely with the Forest Service each year to eliminate these illegal structures, commonly referred to as ‘smoke shacks,’ as they are made aware of them,” a press release stated. “In the past year, mountain operations teams and USFS officials have destroyed several structures at its Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone resorts.” 

But wait, you might be wondering, isn’t marijuana legal in Colorado? Yes and no. While citizens can legally buy and possess the drug, toking up on federal land at a ski area is still prohibited. 


killer whales seaworld lolita tilikum training endangered species blackfish documentary

In this Monday, March 7, 2011 photo, killer whale Tilikum, right, watches as SeaWorld Orlando trainers take a break during a training session at the theme park's Shamu Stadium in Orlando, Fla.     Photo: AP

SeaWorld Strikes Back at OSHA

Questions investigator's ethics

SeaWorld filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday, asking the agency to review the conduct of Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigator (OSHA) Lara Padgett. In 2010, Padgett led the probe inspecting SeaWorld's safety practices following the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was pulled underwater and drowned by the whale Tilikum.

The New York Times reports that SeaWorld is accusing Padgett of having an improper relationship with animal-rights activists and leaking confidential documents to makers of the documentary Blackfish. With this filing, SeaWorld is demanding that Padgett be removed from oversight of its parks while her conduct is under review.

The SeaWorld complaint comes on the heels of an OSHA internal investigation into Padgett's conduct. In January 2014, the agency launched an investigation a year after Park City, Utah's Local 6 news reported that Padgett spent several nights at a rental house she shared with the filmmakers and former SeaWorld employees who appear in the film.

According to OSHA policy, "no employee shall solicit, accept, or agree to accept any form of gratuity where a conflict of interest situation may arise."

Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite denied any conflict of interest, telling the New York Times, "That's just so patently wrong." She added, "People crashed there. At Sundance, that's what people do."

Read more about the controversy surrounding Dawn Brancheau's death in our 2010 feature "The Killer in the Pool."


The ancient cheese bore a similar to modern kefir soup, pictured here with greens and eggs.     Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

World's Oldest Cheese Discovered

Dates back to 1615 B.C.

B.C. stands for "before Christ," but thanks to some detailed work by archaeologists, it might as well represent "brie cheese." Scientists announced the discovery of ancient cheese on Chinese mummies dating back to 1615 B.C., according to results set for publication in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The mummies, found in a cemetery in northwestern China's Taklamakan Desert, were buried in large wooden boats atop a sand dune and tightly wrapped with cowhide to create a vacuum-like effect, reports USA Today. This method of preservation, along with the dry desert air and salty soil, mostly prevented the corpses' decay.

Archaeologists aren't exactly sure why the corpses were buried with lumps of cheese on their bodies, but they think the intention may have been to provide the deceased with food for the afterlife. Based on chemical analysis, the cheese appears to be lactose-free and was probably quick and convenient to make. The ancient humans likely mixed milk with a starter of bacteria and yeast to produce the cheese, which bears a similarity to modern-day kefir and could have facilitated the spread of herding and farming across Asia.

"We not only identified the product as the earliest known cheese, but we also have direct … evidence of ancient technology," wrote study author Andrej Shevchenko, an analytical chemist at Germany's Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics. The cheese represents an early type of technology for commoners, Shevchenko said.

Another intriguing, and decidedly less cheesy, aspect of the study: The corpses were buried in felt hats, wool capes, and leather boots—and have exceptionally non-Asian facial features. Scientists think the people may have hailed from the Middle East, where kefir originated. The cheesemaking technique may have gained popularity among lactose-intolerant populations throughout Asia.


A Greenpeace founder suggested carbon emissions aren't to blame for climate change.     Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Climate Change Is Bunk?

Greenpeace founder declares

Earlier this week, a co-founder of the environmental group Greenpeace told a Senate panel something unexpected for a green activist: Climate change is not caused by humans.

Patrick Moore, a Canadian ecologist who helped found the organization in 1971 and remained a member for 15 years before leaving in 1986 because he disagreed with the group's turn from science to politics, told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, “There is no scientific proof that human emissions of carbon dioxide are the dominant cause of the minor warming of the Earth’s atmosphere over the past 100 years,” according to a Washington Times report. “Today, we live in an unusually cold period in the history of life on earth, and there is no reason to believe that a warmer climate would be anything but beneficial for humans and the majority of other species."

Moore added that humans evolved as a tropical species and can only survive colder climates today because of fire, clothing, and housing. He also said that during the Ice Age, carbon dioxide was 10 times higher than today, but humans still prospered—an interpretation dismissed by some scientists. Moore blamed environmental groups like Greenpeace for spreading misinformation. Activists use faulty computer models and scare tactics to advance their political agendas, he alleged.

Meanwhile, American and British scientists collaborated on a paper released yesterday in Scientific American explaining that, despite occurrences like this winter's polar vortex, any perceived global-warming slowdown will likely be brief.

Scientists from Britain's Royal Academy and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences reported that since a very warm 1998, the warming rate of Earth's surface has slowed slightly—but this change should be only temporary. Notably, the study used accessible language, likely in an attempt to garner a larger, more diverse readership.