What You Missed: Sandia Tramway Rescue and Vail’s Staff Shortage

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Welcome to What You Missed, our daily digest of breaking news and topical perspectives from across the outdoor world. You can also get this news delivered to your email inbox six days a week by signing up for the What You Missed newsletter. 


The outdoor world produced plenty of headlines over the holidays—here’s a quick look at some of the stories you may have missed:

Crews rescued stranded tram workers: Rescue crews in New Mexico saved 21 people who were stranded for 15 hours on the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway on New Year’s Eve after part of the cable iced over during a storm.

Alberto Salazar lost his final appeal: The distance-running coach is now officially banned for life from participating in any activity organized by or under the auspices of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee after losing his final appeal to the U.S. Center for SafeSport on charges of sexual misconduct.

The Marshall Fire destroyed more than 900 homes: A wind-whipped brushfire outside Boulder, Colorado, burned nearly 1,000 homes in the suburban towns of Superior, Louisville, and Marshall on December 30.

A hiker died in the Grand Canyon: On December 22, crews at the national park found the body of Ralph Stoll, 57, of Scottsdale, Arizona, who had gone missing while hiking the previous day.

An avalanche killed a backcountry skier: Colorado saw its first avalanche death of the 2021–22 ski season on December 25 when a backcountry skier was killed in a slide near Cameron Peak just west of Fort Collins.

Mikaela Shiffrin battled COVID-19: The American ski phenom skipped World Cup slalom and giant slalom races in Lienz, Austria, on December 27 and 28 after testing positive for COVID-19. Shiffrin will return to competition on January 4.

A surfer was killed by a great white shark: Tomas Butterfield, 42, of Sacramento died on Christmas Eve after being attacked by a great white shark while bodyboarding in Morro Bay, California. 

A man died during a cliffside collapse in southern Australia: The incident near Bells Beach, one of the country’s most famous surf spots, killed a 28-year-old and injured two others.

Worker Shortage Hampers Vail Resorts

The worker shortage affecting ski towns across the country prevented Vail Resorts from opening terrain—despite plenty of snowfall—at its Colorado ski areas during the busy holiday period. That’s the thrust of a recent report in the Colorado Sun, which explains how the labor shortage also resulted in overcrowding and limited food service and retail sales at Breckenridge, Keystone, Crested Butte, and other Vail-owned ski areas at the end of December. 

One anonymous ski patroller at Breckenridge told the Sun how a lack of lift operators and snowcat drivers was to blame for the fact that more terrain wasn’t open. On December 30, Beth Howard, chief operating officer of Vail Mountain, attributed the terrain closures to the recent uptick in employees with COVID-19, in a statement on Facebook.

“Our mountain is staffed and our employees are vaccinated, but in an effort to keep you safe we are asking any employee who is sick or has been exposed to COVID-19 to stay home–and they are,” Howard wrote. “As a result of these COVID exclusions, our operation has been impacted.”

Vail, of course, is not alone. The Sun story also echoes other reports of how a nationwide housing crisis is proving detrimental to workers in Lake Tahoe, Jackson Hole, and other western ski areas.

Merry Cragsmas

Climber Adam Ondra recently completed a first ascent of Kout Pikle 9a+, a punishing 5.15a route in the Czech Republic.

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