Fatal Tahoe Inbound Avalanche

An avalanche at Alpine Meadows ski area killed a 34-year-old skier skier and seriously injuring a second. This is the forth in-bounds avalanche death at a US resort this year.

Here is a statement from Squaw Alpine:

At approximately 10:16 am today an avalanche was reported in the area between Scott Chute and Promised Land near Scott Chair at Alpine Meadows, within an open area of the resort. A male skier sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased by the Placer County Sheriff’s Office at approximately 11am. A second male skier sustained severe lower-body injuries and was transported to the hospital by ambulance. Alpine Meadows Ski Patrol responded immediately to the scene and completed a thorough search of the area with the help of additional resort personnel and members of the public using avalanche transceivers, probes, RECCO Rescue System technology, and avalanche rescue dog teams. Witnesses to the incident saw no other individuals involved, no additional individuals have been reported missing and the search was declared complete at 11:45am.

The entire Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows team, including all of the first responders, extend their deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the deceased. We are working closely with the families of all the affected individuals to ensure their continued care.

The cause of the avalanche is unknown at this time pending additional investigation with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office.

Avalanche mitigation work had been performed in the area prior to opening to skiers and riders for the day.

A fact sheet by the National Ski Areas Association that includes historic avalanche statistics can be found here.

In bounds avalanche deaths are rave however unfortunately happen every season. The three deaths at Silver Mountain earlier this month was the first fatal inbounds avalanche os the year.

Thirty-five years ago, on March 31st, 1982 a large avalanche hit Alpine Meadows ski resort in California. Seven people died in that avalanche.

On March 31, 1982, at 15:45 a large soft-slab natural avalanche released at Alpine Meadows Ski Area. The avalanche, releasing from the Buttress, Pond and Poma Rocks slide paths, swept down into the base area and parking lot of the ski area. The avalanche hit the Summit Chairlift Terminal building, the main ski lodge, several small buildings, and two chairlifts, and it buried the parking lot under 10 to 20 feet of snow. The Summit Terminal Building, which housed the ski patrol, avalanche control headquarters, lift operations, ski school and the main avalanche rescue cache, was completely destroyed. The day lodge sustained superficial damage, the two chairlifts were extensively damaged, and several small buildings were destroyed, as were several over-the-snow vehicles.

Of the seven people in the Summit Building at the time of the avalanche, three were killed. Three were recovered alive almost immediately, and one young woman was recovered alive after a five-day burial. Four people were buried in the parking lot and were killed. Altogether twelve people and one dog were victims of the avalanche. Seven of those twelve were killed. The dog survived a one-day burial. Total monetary loss was approximately 1.6 million dollars.

—Larry Heywood, The Avalanche Review, VOL. 10, NO. 5, MARCH 1992

The mystery, magic and danger of snow continues to lure us to the mountains. Hopefully these tragic accidents diminish completely. Our condolences to the family and friends of the deceased and best wishes to the injured.