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Encounters in Avalanche Country: A History of Survival in the Mountain West, 1820-1920    by Diana L. DiStefano order for
Encounters in Avalanche Country
by Diana L. DiStefano
Order:  USA  Can
University of Washington, 2013 (2013)
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

In this specialized volume Diana Di Stefano takes a look at the avalanche threat which early settlers who lived in the mountainous areas of the Western United States and Canada had to contend with during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

From the early trappers, miners and pioneers heading west to railway workers and the passengers on the trains that chugged through the track bed cleared by huge rotary plows, all these intrepid people braved the constant winter threat of having the snow pack break loose and come roaring down the mountainsides.

An assistant professor of history at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, DiStefano discusses some of the famous avalanches, including those that struck mining operations in Colorado and Utah plus those that occurred along railroad right-of-ways in places such as Wellington, Washington, and a mountain pass east of Revelstoke, British Columbia.

From what triggered these events and how the inhabitants of the mountains pooled their knowledge to cope with them to some of the legal ramifications that came in the aftermath of a slide, Di Stefano offers a comprehensive view of this frigid and deadly reality of mountain life.

'Workers living in the regions were not alienated from their surroundings but rather were forced to build an understanding of the mountains based on the environmental realities of their work situations,' the author writes.

How this was accomplished and the way the game plan had to adjust to the economic realities that brought more people into Avalanche Country is the subject of this informative and well illustrated book.

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