Early this morning, Wednesday, January 10, an avalanche collapsed at the Palisades ski resort in Tahoe. In a press conference, Placer County Sheriff’s Office reported that the avalanche caused one fatality, and one person sustained minor, non-life-threatening injuries. There are currently no reports of missing people, and it was reported that two other people were caught in the slide, but did not sustain injuries.
An avalanche occurred near KT-22 at Palisades Tahoe during the resort’s opening day of lift operations for the season. Before opening day, officials confirmed in a press conference that ski patrol had been conducting avalanche control assessments since Sunday, evaluating conditions before opening the area.
The resort states that the incident is still under investigation, and they intend to share more information when it becomes available. The Placer County Sherriff’s Office reports that the debris from the avalanche was “150 feet wide, 450 feet long and 10 feet deep”. You can find a recording of the press conference on the Placer County Sheriff’s Office Facebook account.
Palisades has closed both sides of the mountain for the remainder of the day.
While ski resorts have experts and officials routinely check for signs of avalanches, it can be helpful to understand safety precautions when you’re up on the mountain.
If you plan on skiing in avalanche-prone areas, it is advised to bring extra gear to aid in safety, including an airbag, a transceiver, a probe for the snow, and a shovel in case of emergency.
Red flags to be aware of:
- Recent avalanches
- Cracking or collapsing snow
- Heavy snowfall or rain, windblown snow
- Rapid melting
- Persistent slabs in the area
Take stock of the terrain you’re in; avalanches can only happen at slopes that are more than a 30-degree angle. A slide can also affect other areas of the hill, causing small slopes to be swept up in the avalanche.
- First, check the forecast in the areas you want to visit; you can find current forecasts on Avalanche.org, although remember that a forecast can’t be certain.
- Always have a partner with you to help, in case of an emergency and aid in decision making.
- Frequently communicate with your ski partners.
- Have one person ski down the slope at a time, if it is an area that is avalanche-prone.
- Stay out of gentle slopes and valleys, when stopping to be out of the way of a potential slide.
What to do if an avalanche happens
If you find yourself caught in an avalanche, you first want to deploy your airbag if you have one. If you can, get out of the way of the slide and keep your head above the surface as much as you can. When you feel the slide slow down, put your hands to your face and wait for help to come.
If someone else is caught in the slide, you want to watch them to establish a point where they were last seen. Then, immediately call 9-1-1. If the conditions are safe for you to conduct a search, appoint a leader if you are with a group to remain organized. You can find more resources at Avalanche.org.