By Daniel Macht and Orko Manna
OLYMPIC VALLEY, California (KCRA) — Palisades Tahoe reopened on Thursday with some delays, a day after one person was killed and another injured following an avalanche at the resort during Wednesday’s winter storm.
Wednesday’s avalanche happened around 9:30 a.m. on the Palisades side of the Lake Tahoe ski resort, in the GS gully area to the skier’s right of the KT-22 chairlift. This was the first day of the season for the lift, which was deemed safe and opened at 9 a.m.
A Placer County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said that the person who died was a male. The other person who was hurt suffered a minor, non-life-threatening injury. Both were guests at the resort. There were no others reported missing.
The sheriff’s office identified the man who died as 66-year-old Kenneth Kidd. He was a resident of both Point Reyes and the Truckee Tahoe area.
A Palisades Tahoe official said two others were caught in the slide but were unhurt. One person was pulled out of the snow by their partner. The other was assisted by someone else.
“This is a very sad day for my team and everyone here,” Palisades Tahoe president and chief operating officer Dee Byrne said.
She also expressed condolences to the victim’s family.
The sheriff’s office said it helped Olympic Valley Fire and Palisades Tahoe with the search and rescue operation after the avalanche. The Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue was also used “along with allied agency partners and assets from the west side.” And more than 100 Palisades personnel helped in the search.
After both sides of the mountain were closed for the day, Palisades Tahoe reopened on Thursday. But it said KT-22 will be closed and there would be “significant” delays elsewhere.
Palisades Tahoe said the avalanche took away the access road to KT-22, which is required to get snowcats and snowmobiles up the mountain.
The resort also said it would be “a rigorous snow safety morning” for the Palisades and Alpine side of the resort to assess the terrain.
Just after 9 a.m., the resort’s dashboard showed all lifts delayed or closed except one. The base-to-base gondola to Alpine was operating but without an offload at KT-22.
More lifts opened later.
Meteorologist Heather Waldman said the avalanche came after the resort recorded 9 inches of snowfall on Jan. 3. More recently, 17 inches fell on Jan. 7. Another 14 inches of snow were recorded on Wednesday.
High winds over the crest of Palisades this past weekend and Wednesday morning may have also increased the risk of an avalanche at that elevation.
The Sierra Avalanche Center forecast a considerable avalanche danger on Wednesday. The danger remains considerable on Thursday as well.
“New snow and high winds have loaded existing weak layers in our snowpack,” the center wrote. “Large avalanches are the main concern today failing well below our recent storm snow. High winds will also continue to create slabs of wind blown snow in exposed areas. Cautious route finding with large safety margins will be required to help avoid todays avalanche problems.”
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