A man was killed and three others were injured in an avalanche at Palisades Tahoe ski resort Wednesday as a winter snowstorm hammered the region.
The avalanche occurred around 9:30 a.m. in the GS Bowl area below the KT-22 lift, which had just opened for the first time this season. Michael Gross, vice president of mountain operations, said two people, including the man who died, were buried in the avalanche and two others were caught in the slide.
No one else was believed to be missing or buried after more than 100 Palisades personnel and guests participated in a search effort that involved the use of avalanche beacons, probes and rescue dogs. The Lake Tahoe-area ski resort said all of its lifts on the Palisades and Alpine sides would be closed for the day.
"This is a very sad day for my team and everyone here," Palisades president and COO Dee Byrne said during a news conference. "This is a dynamic situation. We're still undergoing an investigation. We have a lot to learn yet, and we'll be working with our agencies, our partners and providing that information, those updates as we learn more."
Palisades spokesperson Patrick Lacey said KT-22 and the terrain off of the lift would remain closed on Thursday. The rest of the mountain was expected to reopen as long as the weather and conditions were safe.
The skier who died was identified as 66-year-old Kenneth Kidd, a resident of both Point Reyes and the Truckee Tahoe area, the Placer County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday evening.
"Our heart felt condolences go out to the family and friends of Mr. Kidd during this difficult time," the sheriff's office said in a statement.
Gross said ski patrol had been doing avalanche control assessments in the area since Sunday to prepare for the lift's opening and had deemed that it was safe.
Conditions in the run-up to KT-22's opening included snow described as "light in density" that "compacts easily under the weight of snowcats." The lift provides access to some of the most challenging terrain on the mountain.
"Our hearts and condolences to the victim, to the victim's family and, certainly, everybody else involved in the incident," Byrne said. "We’ll be sharing more as we learn and confirm the facts."
The avalanche debris field is approximately 150 feet wide, 450 feet long and 10 feet deep, according to the sheriff's office.
Olympic Valley Fire Chief Brad Chisholm said his department treated one individual for a lower leg injury.
On March 31, 1982, seven people were killed in an avalanche at Alpine Meadows after a late-season snowstorm. One survivor was buried for five days. The mountain, which has since merged with Palisades, was closed to visitors at the time because of the dangerous conditions, but several employees stayed behind.