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Your article on skiing in the backcountry outside of Santa Fe touched on the issues of awareness, knowledge and communication facing members the local backcountry skiing community, both experienced and novice [

]. As noted, we have a wealth of attractive skiing and riding opportunities outside the boundaries of the Santa Fe Ski Area, but finding useful information about it can be difficult.

With this in mind, two of my favorite and most trusted local backcountry ski partners�Matt Hartmann and Mark Smith�developed a Web site for sharing and exchanging information about local backcountry skiing conditions. I�ve joined them to help run the site, and offer it up as a potential life-saving resource for people interested in Santa Fe backcountry skiing.

The Northern New Mexico Avalanche Exchange (

) provides a community-powered, worldwide, Web-based location for people to enter their observations and information about the snow and weather conditions they encounter in the local mountains, and share route information and make contacts with other backcountry skiers and riders. Experienced locals can help others to safely enjoy their outings.

It�s our hope that local winter backcountry users will use the site to gather and provide information, and also provide us�the site administrators�with suggestions on how to improve it.



Re: your on story Jan. 23 about �skiing wilderness.� Ski patrolman Cody Sheppard has it right. But he should have added, what was really needed by Adam Putnam was good old common sense and good judgement.

Real mountaineers use both, whether in the Himalayas or the Sangre de Cristos. On one�s first day at Santa Fe Ski Area, one should know where Nambe Chutes, Lake Peak, the Santa Fe watershed and Big Tesuque lie, with relation to all the lifts, and stay away from all of them except on good days.

Common sense would have stood Adam Putnam in good stead, and saved rescuers lots of heartache and money.

An old (85) mountaineer,



Laura Paskus in �Ballot Busters� [

] rightly points out the widespread failings elsewhere of ES&S machines used in New Mexico that count votes by optically scanning paper ballots�an unreliability shared with machines made by other manufacturers as well. ES&S�s seemingly excessive machine maintenance fees, and its unwillingness to train state or county workers to do such maintenance, should be thoroughly investigated.

But Ms. Paskus does not mention that the paper ballot/opscan system, recently legislated for across our state, now provides the paper trail that can check these machine counts for accuracy. By contrast, the old paperless touch-screen machines apparently preferred by the Lincoln County Clerk could not be reviewed for counting accuracy at all.

The new state law requires mandatory random audits in which the vote total tabulated by the opscan machine is compared with that produced by counting the paper ballots the machine has read.

To further strengthen election integrity, New Mexico citizens should contact their legislators and urge support for SB 318, just introduced in the current legislative session by Sen. Cisco McSorley [D-Bernalillo]. This bill specifies the use of statistical probability in selecting a random audit sample size that ensures, with at least a 90 percent probability, that faulty vote-counting machines would be detected if they would change the outcome of an election.

It is of high importance that fully effective audits of optical-scan machine tabulators are in use in our state for the 2008 general election.


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