Christopher Rosacker
crosacker@theunion.com

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December 25, 2012
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3 avalanches in Tahoe area kill 1, injure 3


After a weekend that dropped more than four feet of snow, three avalanches rocked Tahoe-area ski resorts leaving at least one person dead and three people injured.

Search teams at Donner Ski Ranch in eastern Nevada County recovered a man’s body after a Monday morning avalanche, according to county sheriff officials.

A man called the Nevada County Sheriff’s Department shortly after noon Monday, reporting that a friend, a white male in his 50s, had not returned as planned, and he feared they may have been caught up in an avalanche that occurred there sometime around 9:30 a.m., said Sgt. Bob Jakobs.

Ski resorts around Norden were called to help search for the missing person as Nevada County deputies and search and rescue crews began to comb Donner Ski Ranch.

At approximately 1:30 p.m., a Sugar Bowl Ski Patrol canine alerted search crews to an area at the base of the debris field. The deceased body of a white male subject matching the description of the missing man was quickly located approximately two feet to three feet under the snow where the canine had alerted.

It is believed the subject is the individual reported missing earlier in the day; however, identification is being withheld pending notification of next of kin, according to Jakobs.

Shortly after the Donner Ski Ranch was struck with an avalanche, a ski patroller at Alpine Meadows ski resort near Lake Tahoe was air-lifted to a Reno hospital Monday morning after he was buried in an avalanche, a resort official said.

According to a statement from Amelia Richmond, public relations manager at Squaw Valley (which owns neighboring Alpine Meadows), the patroller, a male, was caught in the avalanche at about 10:45 a.m. Monday in the resort’s Sherwood Bowl area.

The resort would not release the identity or age of the ski patroller or whether he survived his injuries, Richmond said in an email to The Union.

The man was part of a team of patrollers performing routine snow safety in the area, which was closed to the public at the time.

“The avalanche was triggered by an explosive charge that had been thrown by a senior member of the ski patrol team,” Richmond said. “The patrol team members were positioned in an area that was, based on historical experience, believed to have been a protected area. The … avalanche broke much higher and wider on the slope than previously observed in past snow safety missions.”

The patroller was found within one minute and uncovered within eight minutes from the time of the avalanche, Richmond said.

After uncovering the buried patroller, members of the ski patrol team immediately began CPR. The patroller was transported to an ambulance and transported via CareFlight helicopter to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno.

The patroller has 28 years of experience on Alpine Meadows’ professional ski patrol, Richmond said, and he routinely performed snow safety in this area.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the patroller and his family and also with the Alpine Meadows family at this time,” Richmond said.

On Sunday, two people suffered non-life-threatening injuries after an avalanche occurred Sunday morning at Squaw Valley ski resort, officials said.

Three snowboarders triggered the in-bounds slide at 9:50 a.m. on a portion of the KT-22 peak, according to a statement from Richmond.

A ski patroller riding the lift line, along with witnesses, “immediately” reported the slide, Richmond said, and several ski patrollers were on scene within one minute to aid both conscious skiers, neither of whom was buried by the snow.

One skier, a 39-year-old female, was transported to and released from the resort’s medical clinic, Richmond said, while the second skier, a 16-year-old male, was treated for a shoulder injury, then transported to Tahoe Forest Hospital for further observation.

No one else was hurt, Richmond said.

“The resort immediately initiated a full search to confirm there were no additional people involved,” said Richmond, adding that more than 100 staff and volunteers took part in the search.

Additionally, seven avalanche rescue dogs from Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows assisted in the search that ended at 11:50 a.m. once everyone on the KT-22 chairlift at the time of the slide was accounted for, she said.

“We would like to thank the Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows ski patrols and dog teams, as well as all of the volunteers for their quick and effective response,” Richmond said.

Managing Editor Kevin MacMillan of The Union’s sister publication, The Sierra Sun, contributed to his report. To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email crosacker@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4236.


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The Union Updated Feb 8, 2013 03:49PM Published Dec 27, 2012 12:37PM Copyright 2012 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.