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What You Missed: Avalanche Kills Skier in Washington State

Avalanche kills one and strands five in Washington State, Vail Resorts sells 2.1 million Epic Passes, and World Cup cyclocross racing makes its debut on snow

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The first avalanche fatality of the 2021–22 ski season happened over the weekend.

One man is dead after an avalanche caught a group of six backcountry skiers at Crystal Mountain ski area in Washington State on Saturday. The incident occurred in Silver Basin, a steep bowl within the resort’s boundary that had not yet opened for the season or for uphill access, effectively making it backcountry terrain.

According to the Pierce County Sheriffs Department, the slide happened at approximately 10:50 a.m. and caught all six skiers as they were ascending the bowl. According to an incident report by the Northwest Avalanche Center, a group that monitors avalanche danger in the Cascades, four of the six were partially or fully buried, and two nearby skiers were first on the scene to assist in a rescue and alert the Crystal Mountain ski patrol. Although the rescue efforts freed the skiers, one was unresponsive, and authorities pronounced him dead at the scene. Authorities have not released his identity but said he was 60 years old.

After the incident, Crystal Mountain reminded skiers to research uphill policies and check avalanche forecasts before heading into the backcountry.

A major storm battered the Cascades late last week with snow and high winds, dumping nearly a foot of fresh powder on Crystal Mountain, forcing the resort to shutter its gondola. The Northwest Avalanche Center issued a high avalanche warning on Saturday and Sunday for zones above tree line. A warning on the group’s website said other skiers had reported multiple smaller avalanches.

“Identify and avoid steep terrain where the wind is building areas of dense, stiff snow,” the center wrote on its website. “Reduce uncertainty and risk by sticking to lower angle slopes that are sheltered from the wind.”

Vail Resorts Sold 2.1 Million Epic Passes This Year

If the ski runs feel more crowded this winter, you’re not imagining things.

Vail Resorts, the largest ski conglomerate in North America, recently revealed that it sold 2.1 million Epic Passes for the 2021–2022 ski season, which is approximately 700,000 more passes than it sold last season and 900,000 more passes than the 2019-2020 season. The figure means that 47 percent more people will have access to Vail Resorts-operated ski areas this winter than last year.

Vail Resorts announced the sales figures in a report on the first quarter of its fiscal year, which ended October 31. According to the report, Vail accomplished its uptick in sales by cutting pass prices by 20 percent—a move that boosted overall revenue from pass sales by 21 percent. Epic Passes range from early-purchased day passes to unrestricted season passes at multiple mountains, and retail prices for the passes are determined by a variety of factors, such as the date or purchase.

Overcrowding and congestion at U.S. ski resorts has become an annual concern, and the Vail Resorts report will likely fuel the growing sentiment that such areas too often put cash ahead of customer experience. Ski resorts are already battling congestion amid an unseasonably dry and warm early season

Powder Meter

Cyclocross is a winter bike-racing format usually held on mud and sand. On Saturday, officials staged a round of the UCI Cyclocross World Cup on snow and ice near Italy’s Val di Sole ski resort in an attempt to demonstrate the format’s potential as a Winter Olympic sport.

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Lead Photo: moodboard/Getty Images

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