August’s News in Brief

– $1.4M Remote Control Avalanche System for Colorado Highway
– Detecting avalanche victims under 5 metres of snow
– Drones to replace ski lifts?
– Further Dramatic Loss of Ice in Greenland …. UPDATED

Saturday 29th August

$1.4M Remote Control Avalanche System for Colorado Highway

Each winter sees avalanches at Lizard Head Pass on Highway 145.

The Yellow Springs Wall, Yellow Springs Gully and Peterson avalanche paths fill with snow and threaten to bury the road.

In the past long-range guns were used to trigger avalanches.

This winter avalanches will be detonated remotely from five Swiss-made, 30-foot-tall towers positioned near the slide paths.

There are already 30 remote systems on the high mountain highways in Colorado and the Interstate Highway 70.

Wednesday 26th August

Device To Detect Avalanche Victims Under 5 Metres of Snow 

Russian scientists say they have developed a device capable of quickly finding people buried deep under snow.

“This unique device will make it possible to significantly increase the efficiency of search and rescue operations, including in complicated weather conditions,” the scientists say.

“The device’s operation is based on radio location principle. It provides high search fidelity at up to 5 metres deep.”

The news is being reported by the official Russian news agency, TASS, which is owned by the government.

The Scientific Research Institute for Civil Protection and Emergencies says the device provides rescue teams with a picture of the snow layer’s structure, indicating whether there are any victims under the snow.

It takes “no more than 3 minutes” for the device to scan a defined area, the scientists say and does not rely on those buried having avalanche transceivers.

No further details about the device are given in the news report other than that is being presented at the Army 2020 International Military and Technical Forum at the Patriot Park in Moscow until 29th August.

 Tuesday 25th August

Forget Ski Lifts – Get Up The Mountain By Drone

How does this sound? A drone that uses a rope to tow skiers and snowboarders up the mountain instead of a traditional ski lift.

According to Amazon, which has successfully patented its latest technology, the idea is you can use an app to order a drone to pick you up, just like a taxi.

You simply wait for the rope to be lowered and hang on.  Once the rope is grabbed, the drone will whisk you up the mountain.

It says there are other potential applications too.

The patent, which has just been granted, explains more:

“The towing system may be utilized as a virtual ski-lift, where a skier at the bottom of a slope may use the towing system to be towed to the top. As another example, an extreme skier may use the towing system to reach a remote ski area or to customize their skiing experience (e.g., off a designated run and for reaching fresh powder, etc.)

“As another example, a rescue skier may utilize the towing system to reach an injured person and/or the injured person may use the towing system to be towed from an area that may generally be inaccessible by other rescue vehicles and/or for which there is currently limited time and/or resources for reaching the area.

“As other examples, the towing system may similarly be utilized for applications in water skiing, surfing, skating, and other activities where a user may be towed.”

Monday 24th August

Further Dramatic Loss of Ice in Greenland

The scale of the melt is “unprecedented” in records dating back to 1948 according to a new report.

High pressure systems that became blocked over Greenland last Summer were the immediate cause of the huge losses.

Over the past 30 years, Greenland’s contribution to global sea levels has grown significantly as ice losses have increased.

Scientists have concluded that Greenland is losing ice seven times faster than it was during the 1990s.

See here for the full story on the BBC.

“If Greenland’s ice losses continue on their current trajectory, an extra 25 million people could be flooded each year by the end of this century,” said lead author Dr Ingo Sasgen, from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany.

“The rates of sea level rise we expect from Greenland, and the risk of sudden sea level rise from Greenland is drastically reduced if we stay below the warming limits,” he said.

“The take home message is that if we reduce CO2, and we reduce or limit global warming, then also the risk for huge contributions from Greenland in the near future will also be reduced.”

The paper has been published in the Nature journal Communications Earth & Environment.

Saturday 22nd August

Top Tory Calls For Possible Boycott of Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics

Sir Iain Duncan Smith says the UK should take a “strong position” including considering a boycott of the Games over alleged human rights abuse in Hong Kong and of Uyghur Muslims.

Sir Iain is among the co-chairs of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, which features politicians from 16 countries and two representatives from the European Parliament.

The group has vowed to reform how democratic countries approach China, with its activities centred on safeguarding international rules-based order, upholding human rights, promoting trade fairness, strengthening security and protecting national integrity.

According to an article on Inside the Games, the former Conservative Party leader has accused China of being “dictatorial, aggressive and intolerant”.

He said that the country’s Government’s “horrific treatment of Hong Kongers and the Uyghur Muslims violates every human rights law in the book.”

Sir Iain told talkRADIO that the UK Government should lobby the International Olympic Committee (IOC) over the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

“I do hope the Government is going to make a very strong position,” Sir Iain said.

“I personally would like to see people ask themselves the question ‘why are we holding the Games in a country like this?’

“I want the Olympic Committee to think very carefully about whether they should be.

“One way or the other, the UK Government themselves must not attend or have anything to do with it.”

He admitted the chance of the IOC moving the Games from China was “very minimal” but suggested the UK Government could boycott the event.

The UK Government previously boycotted the Sochi 2014 Paralympics, following Russia’s intervention in Crimea a week prior to the Games.

Beijing 2022

Beijing 2022

Friday 21st August

Swiss Cow Rescued by Helicopter

A Farmer airlifts an injured cow from a mountain in the Swiss Alps with a helicopter.

The cow had been walking with a limp and the farmer didn’t want to risk further injury.

Thursday 20th August

Natural Way Discovered To Protect Alpine Trees From Disease

Scientists in Austria have found a way to tackle a disease that threatens thousands of hectares of Alpine forests each year, according to a report on the BBC.

Needle bladder rust causes Norway spruce needles to yellow and fall out, reducing their growth significantly.

The researchers have discovered what they say is a natural defence mechanism that helps the trees fend off the potentially fatal pathogen.

Read the full story on the BBC News website:

Tuesday 18th August

Snowsports Retailer Donates £4,500 to Charity

Absolute-Snow has partnered with several charities and last year donated over £4,500 across all of the charities and non-profit organisations.

These include; 1% for The Planet, Protect Our Winters, Snow-Camp, WaterAid, Boarding for Breast Cancer and the World Wildlife Fund.

“It feels really good to have been able to do this. We intend to ramp up our charitable efforts this year and in the years to com,” said Absolute-Snow’s Chairman, Paul McNamara.

“The bigger our business grows, the more we intend to donate – not just in absolute terms but as a percentage of sales and profits as well.

“Our industry is not shy when it comes to supporting worthwhile causes, we are just one of a number of competitors and suppliers who strive to ensure we look after our planet and those who live on it.”

Absolute-Snow is a Snowboard, Ski, Climb, Outdoor and Watersports retailer.



Thursday 13th August

From Ski Racing To Co-Hosting A TV Show With A Dog

The Queen of Speed (retired) Lindsey Vonn has recently sold her home in the ski town of Vail, Colorado, and is moving on to pastures new.

They include hosting a show on Amazon Prime Video with her beloved dog, Lucy.

The pair announced the news on Instagram.

“Thankful to everyone who believed in me and who helped make this show a reality,” Vonn said.

“This was the new challenge I was looking for and I couldn’t be happier 🙏🏻🙌🏻 #thepack.”

Earlier this month Vonn said selling her Vail home and moving away had been one of the hardest things she’d ever done.

“I had so many amazing memories that I will take with me forever.

“My family is still in Vail and I will come back, that is for sure. However, the time for ski racing in my life has come to an end and I need to move on.

“Being around skiing is hard right now; it reminds me of my injuries and of pain. Hopefully one day that will change.”

The Pack is reported to feature 12 teams of dogs and their owners who are given challenges to test the bond between animal and human.

It sounds somewhat less dangerous than downhill ski racing to us at PlanetSKI.

Wednesday 12th August

Climate Change Effect On Antarctica

Satellite observations carried out over 25 years have been used to reconstruct a detailed history of Antarctica’s ice shelves.

They confirm the melting trend.

According to report by the BBC’s Science Correspondent, Jonathon Amos, the shelves have lost almost 4,000 gigatons since 1994 – an amount of meltwater that could practically fill America’s Grand Canyon.

Read the BBC report here

Earlier we reported on how coronavirus has hit the work of the British Antarctic Survey

It is scaling back its work with only essential teams heading back to the continent as it emerges from winter.

Virtually all science in the deep field has been postponed for a year.

This includes all work on the huge, and rapidly melting, Thwaites Glacier, which has been the focus of a major joint study with the Americans.

BAS says it doesn’t have the capacity to treat people if they get sick.

See here for the full details on the BBC.

Very strict procedures are to be put in place to keep the virus out of Antarctica.

Peope usually travel to Antarctica via South Africa, Australia/New Zealand and Chile.

UK scientists and technicians, and their supplies, will now travel direct from Britain to Antarctica on the Royal Research Ship James Clark Ross.

Tuesday 11th August

Snowboarders Charged With Causing Avalanche

Two snowboarders are facing criminal charges after triggering an avalanche in Loveland, Colorado, in April.

According to CBS News in Denver the two have been cited for reckless endangerment.

The avalanche buried hundreds of feet of roadway above the west portal of the Eisenhower Johnson Memorial Tunnels on the Interstate-70.

The loop road was buried under 20 feet of debris but no one was caught in the slide.

Monday 10th August

Woodsy On The Mic For New, Smaller Winter Games NZ

Britain’s own James ‘Woodsy’ Woods will be behind the mic instead of on the ramp getting some Big Air in New Zealand this week.

If this were a normal year the champion freestyle skier would be competing in the Winter Games NZ, a mega ski and snowboard competition that doubles up as the first World Cup event of the new season.

He’s topped the podium there several times.

But due to the coronavirus pandemic and the inability of most of the world’s snowsports athletes to travel there, the Winter Games NZ is this year a New Zealand only affair.

Re-branded Obsdian, it’s a team contest with a difference with the competitors made up of New Zealand’s top skiers and snowboarders.

So Woodsy, who has won World Championships, X Games and has numerous World Cup podiums, will be commentating alongside local freeski superstar Byron Wells.

The Big Air will be the first of the five Obsidian challenges and will be held at Cardrona this  Wednesday, 12th August.

The competitors will go toe to toe in a knockout format until one athlete is left victorious and crowned the Obsidian Big Air Champion.

And if you’re wondering how Woodsy got to be in New Zealand when the borders are closed to almost the entire world, he’s been there since the start of the year, long before lockdown.

He was unable to compete for most of  winter after suffering a knee injury and spent the season and the southern hemisphere summer working on his rehab before returning to the snow in New Zealand as the slopes opened.

Sunday 9th August

2022 Olympic Airport Upgrades Completed

Zhangjiakou Ningyuan Airport will be one of the main infrastructure hubs during the 2022 Winter Games.

Zhangjiakou will be a venue hub with cross-country skiing, Nordic combined, ski jumping,  biathlon, snowboarding and freestyle skiing.

A new terminal has been built with an emergency rescue centre and an extended runway has been completed.

Friday 7th August

Rock Debris Covers Glaciers Across the World

The amount is larger than previously thought.

That’s according to a study run by Britain’s Northumbria University and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research.

It involved examining satellite imagery of every glacier in the world to verify the level of debris cover.

The researchers found that 29,000 square kilometres were covered by such debris – that’s about 75% of the surface area of Switzerland.

“We now know that debris cover is present on almost half of Earth’s glaciers, with 7.3% of the world’s total mountain glacier area being covered,” said lead researcher Sam Herreid.

The debris gathers when glaciers melt, and rocks fall on to the glacier.

The information will help scientists analyse how glaciers will evolve over the coming centuries.

Mont Fort glacier, Switzerland

Mont Fort glacier, Switzerland. Image © PlanetSKI.

Mont Fort glacier, Switzerland

Mont Fort glacier, Switzerland. Image © PlanetSKI.

Mont Fort glacier, Switzerland

Mont Fort glacier, Switzerland. Image © PlanetSKI.

Wednesday 5th August

Chemmy Shows Her Skills On Water

The GB former alpine ski racer and BBC Ski Sunday presenter Chemmy Alcott has been showing some impressive skills at another, relatively new, sport.

She took to the water at LDB Wakeschool in Chertsey, Surrey, for a spot of wakesurfing.

It’s like surfing only it uses the big wake of a boat rather than the natural waves of the sea.

She went along on the recommendation of a fellow Winter Olympian, GB snowboarder Aimee Fuller.

What balance!

Well done Chemmy.

…… And Irv The Swerve Shows His Skills On Water

Staying on water… what about this for an achievement?

Irving Stone, aka ‘Irv the Swerve’ has just celebrated his 80th birthday on a slalom water ski.

Irving Stone after his 80th birthday water ski - photo BWSW

Irv the Swerve after his 80th birthday water ski – photo BWSW

He’s thought to be the oldest water skier in the country – or at least the oldest practising the sport to a high level.

The video below was filmed by our Chief Reporter Jane Peel, who is a slalom water skier herself and does a bit of work for the governing body, British Water Ski & Wakeboard.

Irving Stone & Jane Peel

Irv the Swerve with Jane Peel – photo BWSW

The story of swerving Irving has been picked up by local and national media.

Not surprising when you look at the video of what he can do.

See for yourself. Respect!

What will you do on your 80th birthday? It was a privilege to be at DAMS Watersports as Irving Stone – aka 'Irv the Swerve' – celebrated his milestone birthday on his slalom ski. Amazing 😲The achievement was marked on the day in the Ham & High and the Hunts Post, and later by numerous other news outlets including ITV News At Ten.https://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/hampstead-solicitor-s-water-skiing-80th-birthday-1-6772998https://www.huntspost.co.uk/news/80-year-old-on-his-birthday-water-skiis-1-6772510

Posted by Jane Peel on Sunday, 2 August 2020


Winter Olympic Torch Sold For $55,000 

A rare Winter Olympics torch from the 1952 Oslo Games has been sold at auction for $55,000 (£42,000/ €47,000), including the buyer’s premium.

According to Inside The Games, the torch is one of only 95 produced and is constructed of a silver-coloured brass and steel alloy.

It was designed by Geir Grung and Adolf Thoresen and has an oval-shaped top which is engraved with Olympic rings and a representation of the Relay route from Morgedal, in the county of Telemark, to the Norwegian capital, Oslo.

The Oslo Games were the first Winter Olympics to have a Torch Relay, which  took place to mark the origins of skiing in Telemark.

Saturday 1st August

Beijing 2022 Venues Will be Ready to Hold Competitions by End of this Year

That’s according to the Beijing Office for Major Projects Construction.

The city of Beijing is due to hold the ice sports and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies with the now events taking place in Yanqing and Zhangjiakou.

According to Chinese state news agency Xinhua, there are 22 construction projects in the Beijing competition zone, including renovations to existing facilities and the building of the new National Speed Skating Oval.

The Wukesong Arena is due to host ice hockey and the National Speed Skating Oval is set to be completed in October.

Renovations at other venues – including the Beijing National Aquatics Centre, which staged swimming events at Beijing 2008 and will be called the “Ice Cube” for Beijing 2022 – have been finished.

The Shougang Ski Jumping platform, located next to the Beijing 2022 headquarters, was completed in October 2019 and has already hosted international events.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission for Beijing 2022 has expressed concern over the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on test events for the Games.

Next winter test events are due to be held in speed skating, figure skating, ski jumping, Nordic combined and Alpine skiing.

The coronavirus pandemic as put the events in jeopardy.

“COVID-19 impacts related to travel restrictions, visa requirements and quarantine measures could pose challenges for international experts, officials and athletes to travel to China for the 2020/2021 winter test event season,” said the Coordination Commission chairman, Juan Antonio Samaranch.

Test events for the 2022 Winter Olympics are exempt from a ban on international competitions taking place in China.

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are due to run from February 4th to 20th, with the Paralympics following from March 4th to 13th.

Beijing 2022

Beijing 2022

Investigations Continue After Canadian Dies in Summer Skiing Accident in Banff National Park

A 30-year old man from Calgary is man is dead after a fall while skiing near Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada.

He was in a group of five that had hiked to ski a couloir in the Moraine Lake area.

During the descent he fells and suffered serious injuries. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Next of kin has been notified.

Adaptive Skier Sues Aspen

Allison Nicola alleges a chairlift operator negligently misloaded her onto Elk Camp lift, from where moments later she fell 17 feet to the ground.

Her injuries exacerbated by another load operator who landed on top of her.

Nicola, who was 33 years old at the time of the accident in February 2019, suffered what the lawsuit called “permanent physical injuries.”

She was trying to load while in a sit-ski, which was mounted on one ski.

The fall resulted in Nicola suffering a closed head injury, left cerebral hemorrhage, and spinal and vertebral fractures, the suit said.

The Aspen Times reports that she was not fully seated in the lift when it took off with just her and not her instructor aboard.

A lift attendant trying to keep the woman on the chairlift grabbed her from behind and was carried up by the lift.

A second lift attendant stopped the chair and both individuals fell to the ground between towers 2 and 3 said a Skico spokesman at the time.

See here for last month’s edition of News in Brief, July’s News in Brief