TRUCKEE (CBS SF) — An avalanche slammed into the Alpine Meadows ski area Friday, killing a 34-year-old skier and seriously injuring a second, authorities said.
The Placer County Sheriff’s Department tweeted at 11:20 a.m. that — “Placer County Sheriff’s deputies are currently responding to an avalanche that occurred at Alpine Meadows this morning. Search and Rescue is responding as well, as there are several unaccounted victims.”
A statement from Squaw Alpine said the avalanche happened around 10 a.m. within an open area of the resort above the Subway Run in between the Scott Chute and Promised Land advanced runs near the Scott Chair.
The body of a male skier — identified by deputies as Cole Comstock, 34, of Blairden, Calif. — was recovered by the Ski Patrol and a second male skier was taken to the hospital with severe lower body injuries.
“It’s pretty rugged,” said Placer County Sheriff’s Spokesman Sgt. Mike Powers of the area of the resort struck by the avalanche. “Witnesses identified two subjects skiing down the hillside when the avalanche occurred. The ski patrol was able to locate one subject, unfortunately he passed away. A second subject was evacuated with pretty serious lower body injuries.”
Comstock’s Facebook page shows pictures of him skiing down steep slopes. The sheriff’s department said the experienced skier lived about 90 minutes north of Alpine Meadows.
“The area they were in was not prohibited. But it was definitely an advanced ski area,” said Powers.
Powers did not release the name of the injured skier, but said he was undergoing surgery for severe lower body injuries.
“At least one of the victims was partially buried by snow,” Powers said.
— Placer Sheriff (@PlacerSheriff) January 17, 2020
Resort officials said workers performed avalanche mitigation work before opening Friday morning.
“I know ski patrol is doing an investigation into that. However, most avalanches are either caused by obviously either environmental or human triggers,” said Powers. “And considering witnesses saw them skiing down, you can draw a conclusion from there.”
The death cast a somber mood at the large resort. Areas that were not affected by the avalanche remained open.
Alpine Meadows was the scene of another deadly avalanche decades ago. Seven people were killed and five severely injured in March of 1982.
A wall of snow and ice dropped from some 700 feet above the northeastern area at Alpine.
It took out one chair lift and damaged two others and buried other structures, including the main lodge.
A fierce winter storm slammed into the Tahoe area on Thursday, dumping as much as 25 inches of snow on the Squaw Valley area and buffeted it with strong winds.
The National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Warning and an Avalanche Watch for the Lake Tahoe area beginning at 7 a.m. Thursday.
Here are a few snowfall totals. Reply to us with your snowy photos (location, elevation, & measurement). Sierra winds will continue through tonight before decreasing on Saturday. Quieter weather on tap for the holiday weekend! https://t.co/gCXMvW5fB2 pic.twitter.com/WwHjoWrIaN
— NWS Reno (@NWSReno) January 17, 2020
“Periods of high avalanche danger may occur from Thursday morning through Friday morning,” the weather service warned. “Forecast heavy snow and high wind may result in widespread avalanche activity in the mountains.”
The storm also closed all schools in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District on Thursday, as well as the schools in the Incline Village area of the Washoe County School District.