Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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

Reno, Nev. (AP) — A California ski resort near Lake Tahoe reopened Thursday after a day An avalanche roared down the steep side of the mountain66-year-old skier killed in first US avalanche of winter

Palisades Tahoe's iconic KT-22 lift, which serves the avalanche-hit area, had to be closed while crews cleared a road to allow snowcats and snowmobiles to enter the mostly expert run section.

The resort said in a statement that other lifts will open later on what is a “severe snow protection day”. Lift openings in nearby alpine meadows were expected to be delayed to allow staff to assess all terrain.

A storm shut down the area when an avalanche struck around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, leaving four people swept away and one killed. 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.

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, 66, of nearby Truckee and Point Reyes. One suffered a lower leg injury, and two others were treated for unspecified injuries and released, officials said.

The death was the first US avalanche fatality of the season, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

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

“New snow and high winds have loaded up existing weak layers in our snowpack,” the forecast said.

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The KT-22 lift opened for the first time this season 30 minutes before the avalanche. The resort's website said 1-3 inches (2.5-7.6 centimeters) of snow fell on Tuesday, and that Wednesday will start with snow, followed by snow with strong winds. The resort said 14 inches (35.5 centimeters) fell on Wednesday.

On Monday, the website mentioned its plans to open KT-22 and another lift on Wednesday: “There is a lot of work going into preparing these two lifts, even though the recent snowfall has helped with two feet (62 centimeters). ,” the post said. 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 are many different things at play, and the people doing the work are truly experts in their field. Most of them have been working for 10 to 20 years, some of them more than 50 years, forecasting.

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

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.

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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 the snow is on a slope 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.

In recent avalanches at ski resorts, the U.S. Forest Service is one Skiing in northern New Mexico inspired one In 2019 it led to his death and the death of another skier. There was little service the resort could have done to prevent it. The agency's review found that employees at Taos Ski Valley complied with operating procedures, including detailed snow safety procedures with each day's decision on whether to open lifts and ski runs.

Most skiers or snowboarders hitchhike on backcountry slopes outside of actual ski resorts, where staff closely monitor conditions within their boundaries.

In fact, the Sierra Avalanche Center's daily forecasts only indicate avalanche conditions in backcountry areas where no mitigation is conducted.

“Any avalanches that occur within ski area boundaries are outside the scope of our work. For this reason, we have no comment on avalanches that occur within ski area boundaries,” Brandon Schwartz, lead avalanche forecaster for the Sierra Avalanche Centers in the Tahoe National Forest, said in an email to The Associated Press.

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

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