Man unhurt in avalanche |

Man unhurt in avalanche

Bradley Foster

MARKLEEVILLE – An avalanche trapped a 60-year-old Woodfords man for 45 minutes on Carson Pass on Monday afternoon.

Bob Stephens, who owns Woodfords Auto Service and Towing, was driving a tow truck home from Kirkwood Mountain Resort just after noon when the slide occurred.

“A little slide came down and boxed him in, but he was all right,” said Sgt. Roman Vondriska of the California Highway Patrol.

“It wasn’t fun, but it was no big deal. I’ve been caught in them before,” said Stephens, who said he has been trapped by at least six avalanches. “I have been towing up here since I opened my first shop in 1958, so six slides since then isn’t too bad.”

“The avalanche and I got to the same place at the same time,” Stephens said. “I saw it coming and it just slid in front of me and pushed me up over the guardrail.”

He said the slide lifted his truck at least six feet off the ground and pushed it just as far off the side of the road. The slide was about 10 feet deep and between 40- and 50-feet wide, according to Stephens, who said there were some rocks and trees brought down by the snow.

“I called the sheriff’s department and then got out and looked for any other cars,” Stephens said. “Then I went and sat up on a rock and waited for them to come get me.”

A spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation said Carson Pass was closed three times Monday for avalanche control, and the spur west of Kirkwood was closed at 1 a.m. and remained closed throughout the day.

A Caltrans snow plow that helped dig out Stephens’ tow truck was nearly caught in a different slide later in the afternoon.

“They pulled (Stephens) out and were heading back up the hill when a section of snow came down into the road,” the spokeswoman said. “They plowed into the snow but were not buried by it.”

It was snowing nearly an inch an hour at Kirkwood Monday and when the lifts stopped at 4 p.m. the roads from the resort were still closed.

Caltrans was planning to plow a path through the snow from Kirkwood across Carson Pass so people could get home, but the resort’s Tania Pilkinton thought some people might be forced to remain overnight.

“If people have to stay here we give them blankets and keep them warm in our lodges,” Pilkinton said. “We make it a party. It part of the adventure of Kirkwood.”