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1 dead, 3 injured in avalanche at California ski resort

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VIDEO COURTESY AP
An avalanche roared through a section of expert trails at a California ski resort near Lake Tahoe on Wednesday, killing one person and injuring another, as a major storm with snow and gusty winds moved into the region, authorities said.
MARK SPONSLER VIA AP
                                Rescue crews work at the scene of an avalanche at the Palisades Tahoe ski resort today near Lake Tahoe, Calif. The avalanche roared through a section of expert trails at the ski resort as a major storm with snow and gusty winds moved into the region, authorities said.
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MARK SPONSLER VIA AP

Rescue crews work at the scene of an avalanche at the Palisades Tahoe ski resort today near Lake Tahoe, Calif. The avalanche roared through a section of expert trails at the ski resort as a major storm with snow and gusty winds moved into the region, authorities said.

ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2023
                                People through the parking area of the Alpine Base Area at Palisades Tahoe during a winter storm in Alpine Meadows, Calif. Search teams were deployed following an avalanche Wednesday at the Palisades ski resort near Lake Tahoe, officials said.
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ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2023

People through the parking area of the Alpine Base Area at Palisades Tahoe during a winter storm in Alpine Meadows, Calif. Search teams were deployed following an avalanche Wednesday at the Palisades ski resort near Lake Tahoe, officials said.

MARK SPONSLER VIA AP
                                Rescue crews work at the scene of an avalanche at the Palisades Tahoe ski resort today near Lake Tahoe, Calif. The avalanche roared through a section of expert trails at the ski resort as a major storm with snow and gusty winds moved into the region, authorities said.
ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2023
                                People through the parking area of the Alpine Base Area at Palisades Tahoe during a winter storm in Alpine Meadows, Calif. Search teams were deployed following an avalanche Wednesday at the Palisades ski resort near Lake Tahoe, officials said.

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1 dead, 3 injured in avalanche at California ski resort

RENO, Nev. >> An avalanche roared through a section of expert trails at a California ski resort near Lake Tahoe today, sweeping up four people and killing one, as a major storm with snow and gusty winds moved into the region, authorities said.

The avalanche prompted Palisades Tahoe to close 30 minutes after it opened, and search crews combed the area to see if anyone was injured or trapped.

Sgt. David Smith, a spokesperson for the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, said hours later that one person died. The sheriff’s office identified him Wednesday evening as Kenneth Kidd, 66, a resident of nearby Truckee and Point Reyes.

One person suffered a lower leg injury and two others were treated for unspecified injuries and released, officials said.

Authorities said nobody else was missing.

The avalanche occurred around 9:30 a.m. on steep slopes in the GS Gully area under the KT-22 lift, which serves “black diamond” runs for skilled skiers and snowboarders. Michael Gross, vice president of mountain operations, said ski patrols had been on the slopes checking the avalanche conditions since Sunday.

“They’ve been up there doing control work, evaluating weather conditions, setting up all safety markings, hazard markings, et cetera, to get them prepared for today’s opening,” Gross told reporters at a news conference Wednesday.

The popular lift opened Wednesday for the first time this season. Palisades Tahoe said in a statement on X, formerly Twitter, that the entire resort would be closed for the rest of the day.

The person who was killed was a guest at the resort and from out of town, officials said.

The avalanche debris field spanned about 150 feet (45.72 meters) wide, 450 feet (137.16 meters) long and 10 feet (3.05 meters) deep, the sheriff’s office said.

“This is a very sad day for my team and everyone here,” said Dee Byrne, president of Palisades Tahoe, her voice emotional.

Skier Mark Sponsler said he arrived at the KT-22 lift around 9:30 a.m. amid howling winds and white-out conditions to find it shut down. Unbeknownst to him, the avalanche had just hit.

He spoke to someone who was in the second group to ride up. That person had watched the disaster strike from above, said Sponsler, a veteran weather forecaster and founder of stormsurf.com.

“There was screaming, there were skis and poles and a hand sticking up out of the snow,” Sponsler said the witness told him.

The cause of the avalanche is under investigation, officials said. It happened as a powerful storm was expected to bring as much as 2 feet (61 centimeters) of snow to the highest elevations by early Thursday.

Palisades, the site for the 1960 Winter Olympics, is on the western side of Lake Tahoe, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Reno, Nevada. The National Weather Service in Reno said 2 inches (5 centimeters) could fall per hour Wednesday around the lake.

Winds at the top of Palisades resort (8,000 feet) were gusting between 31 mph and 38 mph between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Dan Lavely, 67, of Reno is a season pass holder at Palisades and skied mostly at Alpine Meadows on Monday when there was very little snow and the KT-22 lift was closed.

“They didn’t have enough snow to open the lift, it wasn’t even running. … Today was supposed to be the first day they opened KT-22,” he said.

The steep run along the side of the lift is where the giant slalom was held during the 1960 Olympics, he said.

“Really good skiers love it because it’s really steep,” he said. “I remember when I was really young I was skiing around there. I fell over and slid like two-thirds of the way down the mountain. There was no way to stop because it’s just so steep.”

The death Wednesday was the first U.S. avalanche fatality of the season, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, which monitors nationwide.

A 2020 avalanche at Alpine Meadows killed one skier and seriously injured another a day after a major storm. Another avalanche at the resort in March 1982 killed seven people, including several employees.


Dazio reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writer Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.


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