In the small hours of the night of March 1, 1910 a thundering mass of wet snow, earth, rocks and trees ripped a terrible swath down the 5,000-foot peaks surrounding Stevens Pass in Washington. It completely engulfed a Great Northern train, which had been stalled by lesser slides. More than 100 persons died, but no one knows just how many because an unknown number of trackwalkers and gandy dancers had sought refuge in the stalled train and were killed along with passengers and crew.
Since then Stevens Pass has piled up a history of avalanches, which take place at intervals of about six or seven years, but this has not prevented the summit of the pass from becoming one of the country's most popular ski areas. Early this year, however, tremendous snows fell in the Cascades. Eventually, during chinook rains, they acquired an icy surface. Then, last week, the greatest snows in some 30 years hit the icy crust and promptly avalanched. All four passes through the Cascades were blocked, and road crews fought day and night to open one or another at intervals to one-way traffic. Early Sunday morning, Jan. 24, a massive slide from Mt. Lichtenberg crashed over a ski hut real-estate development, killing four persons and injuring many more.
"We warned the developers that they were building in an avalanche area," says Governor Dan Evans, himself an avid skier, "and that prospective purchasers should be notified. We were informed by lawyers for the development that we were damaging their potential for sales and that we might be subject to suit."
Out of the tragedy may come some good. Evans intends to introduce a land-use management plan that "will give us at the state level an opportunity to really get some broad criteria for development of land."
Not that skiers are going to wait. Shortly after the fatal slide, skiers bound for Stevens Pass, which was closed, hung around Skykomish, hoping the road would reopen. When an ambulance came through carrying an injured man who had been caught in yet another avalanche, skiers immediately bearded highway officers, demanding that they be allowed to proceed to their sport.
JUST FOR KICKS
Marin County, just north of San Francisco, is bidding to become the extra-point and field-goal-kicking educational center of the U.S.
Chances are it has become so already. Last season Marin County high-schoolers averaged 78.7% of their field-goal attempts, against the national pro average of 59.4%. They weren't cheap shots, either. The shortest field goal was 26 yards, and these high schools use college-width goalposts. They also had a 95.5% conversion record, compared with the NCAA average of 88.3%. In one game a San Marin High kicker set a local record of three field goals in one game—at 43, 41 and 29 yards.
Typical of the county players' approach to kicking is the family of Bobby Cooper, who plays for Novato High. His father centers, his mother holds and his sister shags in all-year practice sessions. Last year Bobby missed only one extra-point attempt.