By CHRISTOPHER WEBER and STEFANIE DAZIO
LOS ANGELES (AP) — An avalanche roared through a section of expert trails at a California ski resort near Lake Tahoe on Wednesday, forcing Palisades Tahoe to close only 30 minutes after it opened. Search crews were combing the area to see if anyone was injured or trapped as a major storm with snow and gusty winds moved into the region.
The avalanche occurred around 9:30 a.m. on steep slopes under the KT-22 lift, which serves “black diamond” runs for skilled skiers and snowboarders. Palisades Tahoe said in a statement on X, formerly Twitter, that it’s search teams were checking an area called GS Gully and that both sides of the mountain at the resort would be closed for the rest of the day.
Sgt. David Smith, a spokesperson for the Placer County sheriff, said there were no reports of people missing by midday Wednesday.
“They don’t believe at this point in time that anybody’s trapped,” Smith told The Associated Press, but added it’s a “fluid situation” on the mountain.
The avalanche happened as a powerful storm was expected to bring as much as 2 feet (61 centimeters) of snow to the highest elevations by early Thursday.
Palisades, the site for the 1960 Winter Olympics, is on the western side of Lake Tahoe, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Reno, Nevada. The National Weather Service in Reno said 2 inches (5 centimeters) could fall per hour Wednesday around the lake.
A 110 mph (177 kph) gust was recorded Tuesday afternoon at the summit of Alpine Meadows, the adjoining resort, the weather service said.
Dan Lavely, 67, of Reno, a season pass holder at Palisades, skied mostly at Alpine Meadows on Monday when there was very little snow and the KT-22 lift was closed.
“They didn’t have enough snow to open the lift, it wasn’t even running. … Today was supposed to be the first day they opened KT-22,” he said.
The steep run along the side of the lift is where the grand slalom was held during the 1960 Olympics, he said.
“Really good skiers love it because it’s really steep,” he said. “I remember when I was really young I was skiing around there. I fell over and slid like two-thirds of the way down the mountain. There was no way to stop because it’s just so steep.”
Lavely doubted there were many people on the mountain at the time of Wednesday’s avalanche because of the early hour, the lack of snow and the high winds.
“But there are powder hounds” who “like to ski in this type of storm,” he said.
A 2020 avalanche at Alpine Meadows killed one skier and seriously injured another a day after a major storm. Another avalanche at Alpine Meadows in March 1982 killed seven people, including several employees of the ski resort.
Associated Press writer Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada, contributed to this report.