A California ski resort has reopened as workers clear debris from a dangerous avalanche

Reno, Nev. (AP) — A skier said he will return to the slopes Thursday, a day after he was buried. An avalanche roared down a mountain At a California resort near Lake Tahoe, several people were trapped and a 66-year-old man died.

According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, this is the first avalanche death in the United States this season. Such deaths occur on unmaintained, back-country slopes rather than resort trails.

After an avalanche closed every lift and trail, Palisades Tahoe reopened several runs Thursday. But its iconic KT-22 lift, which serves the mostly expert runs area where the slide occurred, was closed while crews worked to clear a road to clear snowmobiles and snowmobiles.

The resort said it was a “severe snow protection day”. Half the lifts at nearby Alpine Meadows Resort were open Thursday afternoon, but the gondola connecting it to the Palisades was closed.

The storm shut down the area around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday when an avalanche hit, trapping four people. The debris field was about 150 feet (46 meters) wide, 450 feet (137 meters) long and 10 feet (3 meters) deep, according to the Placer County Sheriff's Office.

Janet said she and her husband had just gotten off KT-22. After falling about 200 feet (60 meters) down the slope, she couldn't breathe and buried herself under the snow, she said. CBS 13. She asked herself, “Am I going to die here?”

Her husband, Joseph Lew, is above, frantically using a ski pole in the snow to find his wife. A stranger found her and dragged her to safety.

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“He says, 'Don't worry, I've got you,'” Janet recalled. “I think that's the best thing I've ever heard in my life.” She walked away unscathed. And the couple said they plan to go skiing again on Thursday.

The Palisades, site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, are located on the west side of Lake Tahoe, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Reno, Nevada.

The sheriff's office identified the slain man as Kenneth Kidd, who lives in nearby Truckee and Point Reyes. One suffered a lower leg injury, and two others were treated for unspecified injuries and released, officials said.

Ethan Green, executive director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, said ski resorts excel at deliberately triggering and mitigating small avalanches while closing slopes to prevent avalanche accidents. Just 3% of the 244 avalanche deaths in the U.S. in the past 10 years were “in open, ski resort-operated areas,” he said.

But they cannot be completely prevented from happening, he said.

“We deal with Mother Nature. “We're dealing with natural hazard in very complex systems in mountain environments,” Green said.

The Sierra Avalanche Center's forecast for the Central Sierra backcountry predicts dangerous avalanche conditions continuing Thursday.

Another skier caught in Wednesday's avalanche estimated he was buried under a foot of snow and debris for about eight minutes. Jason Parker said he was enjoying the fresh powder when hit by a wave of snow, “going headfirst and trying to swim to the top.”

After coming to a stop, Parker screamed for several minutes. “It was very different,” he said KCRA 3And he began to think, “This is your way out.”

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As he began to lose consciousness, searchers dug him out and created an airway for him.

“It's the locals,” he said. “Those who knew the area well, saved me. I can't thank them enough.

The KT-22 lift opened for the first time this season 30 minutes before the avalanche. This was a slow start to the region's snow season.

“A lot of work has gone into getting these two lifts ready, even with the help of two feet (62 centimeters) of recent snowfall,” the resort posted Monday. It classified the existing snow as light in density.

Michael Cross, vice president of mountain operations, said the team evaluates conditions based on their expertise and historical data before deeming an area safe to open.

“You know, we have decades worth of weather data, and we're always providing or referencing, so we look at current forecasts, we look at different models, we look at wind speed, snow density, wind direction,” Gross told reporters Wednesday. . “There's a lot of different things that go into the game and the people who do the work are really experts in their field.”

According to forecasters, most avalanches occur during or after a major snowstorm, with strong winds or a rapid increase in temperature. They are possible any time there is snow on slopes steeper than 30 degrees, and can be triggered by humans moving across the area or often by natural events involving the weight of snow and wind events.

According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, avalanches have killed an average of 24 people annually in the United States over the past decade.

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

Green warns outdoor enthusiasts to be prepared for a significant increase in avalanche danger this coming holiday weekend in Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. Like the Sierra Nevada, the region had less than normal snowfall prior to last week, as winter storms moved through a bout, and there are more.

“We usually have a below-average winter, but if we have a dry spell followed by very wet weather, that can be enough to create a major avalanche cycle.”

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Associated Press writer John Antsak in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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