RENO, Nev. — A devastating avalanche struck a section of expert trails at a California ski resort near Lake Tahoe on Wednesday, resulting in one fatality and one injury. The incident occurred as a powerful storm system, complete with heavy snowfall and strong winds, moved into the region.
Shortly after opening, Palisades Tahoe made the difficult decision to close the resort due to the avalanche. Rescue teams were immediately dispatched to conduct search and rescue operations in the affected area.
Hours later, Sgt. David Smith, spokesperson for the Placer County sheriff, confirmed the tragic news that a male skier had lost his life in the incident. Another individual sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was treated for a lower leg injury by Olympic Valley Fire Chief Brad Chisholm.
Thankfully, officials have confirmed that there are no additional missing individuals at this time.
The avalanche occurred around 9:30 a.m. on the steep slopes of the popular GS Gully area, which is located beneath the KT-22 lift. These runs are specifically designated as “black diamond” trails for experienced skiers and snowboarders. In response to the incident, Palisades Tahoe announced via statement on X (formerly known as Twitter) that both sides of the mountain would remain closed for the remainder of the day.
Tragically, those who were killed and injured were guests visiting from out of town. Fortunately, two others were able to escape the slide unharmed after being caught in the avalanche.
According to the sheriff’s office, the debris field left behind by the avalanche stretched approximately 150 feet wide, 450 feet long, and 10 feet deep.
“This is a very sad day for my team and everyone here,” expressed an emotional Dee Byrne, President of Palisades Tahoe.
The cause of the avalanche is currently under investigation. Michael Gross, Vice President of Mountain Operations, revealed that ski patrols had been diligently monitoring the avalanche conditions in the area since Sunday.
Snowstorm Prepares Palisades for Winter Season Opening
At a news conference on Wednesday, officials revealed that Palisades, the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, has been diligently preparing for its highly anticipated opening. Despite facing challenging weather conditions and the imminent arrival of a powerful snowstorm, the team in charge has been conducting control work, evaluating the weather, and ensuring safety measures are in place.
Located about 40 miles from Reno, Nevada, on the western side of Lake Tahoe, Palisades is anticipating heavy snowfall of up to 2 feet by early Thursday, as predicted by the National Weather Service in Reno. The surrounding areas have already experienced strong winds, with a gust reaching a remarkable 110 mph at the summit of neighboring Alpine Meadows.
This recent weather activity postponed the opening of the KT-22 lift at Palisades, disappointing avid skiers like Dan Lavely from Reno. Lavely, a seasoned skier and pass holder at Palisades, recalled his experiences skiing on this renowned mountain. He reminisced about the iconic steep run by the lift, which hosted the giant slalom during the 1960 Olympics. Lavely emphasized that expert skiers are particularly fond of this challenging terrain.
While reminiscing about his youth, Lavely shared a comical anecdote. He vividly remembered falling over on this steep slope and helplessly sliding two-thirds of the way down the mountain due to its extreme incline. He humorously added, “There was no way to stop because it’s just so steep!”
However, it is essential to note that Palisades and Alpine Meadows have experienced tragic incidents in the past. An avalanche in 2020 at Alpine Meadows claimed the life of one skier and severely injured another. Additionally, in March 1982, a devastating avalanche at the resort resulted in the loss of seven lives, including several employees.
As Palisades eagerly awaits the snowstorm’s passing, the team’s dedication to safety and preparation remains of utmost importance. Once the storm subsides, skiers will have the opportunity to enjoy the exhilarating slopes and breathtaking scenery Palisades has to offer.