LAKE TAHOE (KCBS) – The death of a 22-year-old snowboarder from San Jose last weekend was just the latest tragic incident in a season of unusually heavy snowfall in the Sierras.

Authorities are urging caution as crowds head to the mountains over the next few weeks.

Skiing the backcountry through freshly fallen snow is the ultimate for many ski enthusiasts. But it can also be very dangerous as was the case late last year for a 25-year-old snowboarder who was found dead in a tree well at Alpine Meadows.

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

Placer County Sheriff’s Captain Jeff Ausnow said often you land head first.

“Fluids run to your head and lungs. You’re in a panic. You’re trying to struggle,” Ausnow said. “It causes difficulty in breathing. You can actually suffocate in the snow if it collapses in and around you. It’s just one of the hazards being in the backcountry.”

The 22-year-old from San Jose was found at Sierra at Tahoe on Sunday. And although he was not out of bounds, he was buried under several feet of snow that fell during the weekend storm.

Ausnow said investing in cutting-edge technology may be wise if you’re going to be in nasty weather.

“For the cost of a decent smartphone, you can get an avalanche beacon, in the neighborhood of $150-200,” he said.

The beacons are a class of radio transceivers which specialize in the purpose of finding people or equipment buried under snow.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

  1. Angie says:

    Perhaps the resorts should purchase the beacons and make them mandatory rentals with the purchase of a lift ticket…Good P.R., lives saved and the resorts make a profit thru the rentals!

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