1 dead, 1 injured following avalanche at California ski resort as storm moves in, official says

Rescues crews on Wednesday work at the scene of an avalanche at the Palisades Tahoe ski resort near Lake Tahoe, Calif. (Mark Sponsler/via AP)

RENO, Nev. — 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 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.

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Sgt. David Smith, a spokesperson for the Placer County sheriff, said hours later that one person, a male, died, and another person sustained non-life-threatening injuries. Olympic Valley Fire Chief Brad Chisholm said the injured person suffered a lower leg injury.

Officials 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 people who were killed and injured were guests at the resort and from out of town, officials said. Two others were caught in the slide and extracted from the snow without injuries.

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.