A U.S. Forest Service (USFS) review concluded that Taos Ski Valley, N.M., followed proper safety procedures in the days and weeks leading up to a Jan. 17 inbounds avalanche that killed two skiers. The review said the avalanche was trigger by a skier.
According to reports, the Forest Service reviewed detailed records of Taos’ avalanche prevention and control measures, including weather monitoring and the use of explosives that can release unstable snow. USFS also interviewed Taos personnel who responded to the incident. Its findings showed Taos staff complied with operating and snow safety procedures that inform decisions on whether to open lifts and trails.
“We didn’t find anything in our review, any red flags, anything they weren’t doing that’s in their permit,” said Forest Service regional winter sports coordinator Adam LaDell. “I’m very confident, where I’d go up and ride it and have no questions. Unfortunately things happen, very unfortunately.”
Coincidentally, Taos is installing a new avalanche control system that allows for remote detonations in lieu of handling explosives to dislodge unstable snow. Planning for the system already was underway before January’s deadly avalanche, Forest Service and resort officials said.
The Forest Service made one new procedural recommendation following its review. It will require annual signatures to accompany the resort’s snow safety plan, to ensure the document is continually reviewed to incorporate new technology. The plan was up-to-date when the avalanche occurred.