Linking Turns: Bad backcountry news, a Michigan hill’s history and class dynamics in Jackson

Midwest Ski Journal likes to highlight a few pieces of skiing internet worth your time in Linking Turns. Find the best, most important, least important and otherwise links here each week.

This week, we read some tough, if not unexpected news about backcountry deaths. Then, a historian tells us about the history of a hill in northern Michigan. Finally, we read an absolutely wild piece about Jackson, Wyoming in Time Magazine.

TURN 1: We Just Experienced The Most Avalanche Deaths In One Week Since 1910 (Matt Lorelli/Unofficial Networks)

It’s what we all kind of expected and feared; this season is turning out to be an especially deadly one in the backcountry.

It’s been a bad week across North America as far as backcountry deaths due to avalanches. We knew novices would be heading into the backcountry this year and, when combined with huge snowfall across the country this month, it’s making for eye-popping stats like this one.

Unofficial Networks’ post pulls together some statements from various avalanche organizations outlining just how dangerous it is out there right now. Hopefully headlines like this are a wake-up call and we can take our collective feet off the gas this winter.

TURN 2: Skiing the Hills of South Marquette (Jim Koski/The Mining Journal)

Historian Jim Koski, on special assignment for The Mining Journal, outlined how the community of Marquette, Michigan embraced skiing and ski jumping on a hill on the south end of town over the decades.

He starts in the 1920s and outlines the trajectory of this little hill that saw it install a tow rope and eventually become a ski area. It’s an interesting, wholesome-as-hell look at a Midwest town bear-hugging the sport of skiing.

In the 1920s through 1940s skiing (and ski jumping) reigned as perhaps Marquette’s premiere winter sport. Wherever there was a hill (and enough snow) kids and adults alike would strap on their skis, sometimes attached to their feet with plastic cords instead of bindings, and they would soon find themselves gliding through the snow or flying through the air for afternoons on end.

Jim Koski/The Mining Journal

TURN 3: What America’s Richest Ski Town’s Handling of COVID-19 Says About the Country (Lucas Isakowitz/Time Magazine)

Just read this insane paragraph from Time Magazine’s examination of Jackson, Wyoming.

Teton is the wealthiest county in the U.S., with a per capita income of over $250,000. At the start of the pandemic, a flurry of private jets landed at the Jackson Hole Airport, sometimes with a private ventilator in tow, as second homeowners and new buyers escaped to this rural paradise. Greenbaum posits that part of the reason why St. John’s hasn’t been overrun by cases is that many of the tourists that get COVID-19 in Teton County might not stay to get treatment in Teton County. At a time when millions of Americans are out of work, when daily infection rates are at an all-time high, and when thousands across the country are dying daily from the virus, should the wealthy indulge in an après ski, looking out onto the beautiful Teton mountains, all while potentially shuttling COVID-19 into and out of Jackson?

Lucas Isakowitz/Time Magazine

We already knew elites were fleeing to their mountain enclaves during pandemic-related shutdowns, but this story alleges people were flying their own ventilators in to Jackson with them and then leaving town for some boutique medicine when they got infected, which left the emergency rooms in Teton County without too much strain.

That’s crazy enough, but this piece does much more. It’s an examination of class dynamics in the place with the highest income inequality in the country and how the town and resort’s symbiotic relationship both helps it thrive and makes it susceptible to doom.

I’d expect no less from Time Magazine. I love it when these prestige outlets dig their teeth into our skiing world, even when they expose its warts.

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