Sierra resorts step up avalanche control efforts
Associated Press Writer
RENO ” Sierra ski resorts are stepping up avalanche control efforts after a California man died in a slide and a string of storms dropped as much as 12 feet of snow over the last two weeks.
The U.S. Forest Service’s Sierra Avalanche Center said the avalanche danger is moderate in backcountry areas above treeline in the central Sierra around Lake Tahoe.
Its advisory came after expert skier Randall Davis, 21, of Tahoe City, Calif., was found dead under several feet of snow at the Squaw Valley USA resort just north of Tahoe on Thursday.
Davis vanished when he was skiing down expert terrain with a friend during a blizzard. His body was found on a very steep, thickly forested slope, the Placer County sheriff’s office reported.
The heavy snow is prompting resorts to kick avalanche control into full gear for the busy holiday ski season, said Rachael Woods, spokeswoman for the nearby Alpine Meadows resort.
The efforts routinely involve the use of explosives in reducing snow on steep slopes, the closure of certain areas and talks with guests about snow safety, she said.
“They’re committing all resources to snow safety,” Woods said. “They’re trying to mitigate the avalanche threat as much as possible.”
A pair of skiers at the Mount Rose ski resort south of Reno were found in good condition Thursday night after they went missing in the afternoon.
The Washoe County sheriff’s office said it had been in contact with the duo by cell phone after they went out of bounds.
Also during the storm, a train struck a mother and son walking along the tracks Thursday afternoon in the Sierra, killing one and severely injuring the other.
Sydney Parks, 59, of Petaluma, Calif., died at the scene near Truckee, Calif., while her 22-year-old son, Alan Young of Davis, Calif., was sent to a hospital with severe injuries, Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal said.
According to witnesses, the two thought they were hiking on a trail when a Union Pacific Railroad train plowing snow off the tracks approached them.
The train sounded its whistle and initiated an emergency stop, but the two mistakenly moved into the train’s path during whiteout conditions and poor visibility, Royal said.
Skiers and snowboarders packed the slopes during the holiday weekend to take advantage of sunny skies and up to 3 feet of snow from the latest storm.
Since Dec. 12, Alpine Meadows reported receiving about 10 feet of snow at its base lodge and about 13 feet of snow at its mid-mountain.
To the south, Mammoth Mountain ski resort reported getting up to 13 inches of new snow and 12 1/2 feet of snow since Dec. 13.
Only two weeks ago, the Tahoe snowpack stood at about 2 percent of average for the date.
The heavy snowfall has allowed ski resorts to kick into full operation.
“I have never seen such an influx of guests for the day after Christmas as I have today,” Woods said Friday, adding it has been one of her resort’s snowiest Decembers ever.
“We could not have asked for a better Christmas present ” 2 feet of snow,” said Mount Rose spokeswoman Krista Haggott.