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Rider and Snowmobiler Go Different Ways in Denali


    It's true. Timing is everything.
    Officials at Denali National Park and Preserve recently issued their backcountry management plan. And in response, the Denali Citizens Council expressed its concerns over the plan's handling of snowmobiles. Among other things, the council is worried "about the long-term implications of allowing dispersed use of snowmachines in Denali's backcountry."
    Now comes word that an out-of-control snowmobiler became separated from his rented machine after catching air off a ridgetop, and park rangers are trying to figure out how to recover the machine.

    The accident occurred at a place called Takosha Bench, which is not far from Ruth Glacier. Denali spokeswoman Kris Fister tells me that park officials didn't learn about the accident "until a day or so later when a helicopter company called us in order to get a Special Use Permit to remove it."
     "Upon contacting the person involved, he first said that the machine was "stuck," she adds. "When a couple of the rangers flew to the site to look at the situation, they discovered it to be about 500 feet below a 1,500 foot 40-50 degree slope. The snowmachine had apparently been driven off a steep corniced ridge, and was upside down after tumbling an estimated 20 times."
     As for the rider, he jumped off near the top of the ridge and managed to walk away to tell his story.
     "We're still working with the person involved, the rental company, etc. to determine how to remove it," said Fister.   
    I hope the rider signed up for insurance coverage. The snowmobile, a Yamaha, retails for about $7,000 and had only about 500 miles on it.
    Whether he will be cited is another matter.  According to a story in the Anchorage Daily News, it's not illegal to ride a snowmobile at Takosha Bench. But there are restrictions against bothering wildlife, excessive noise and speed. Rangers say the area where the accident occurred is prime grizzly denning habitat.

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