There was an avalanche Wednesday morning at Palisades Tahoe that reportedly buried multiple skiers who were among the first down a trail, and a search and rescue operation is underway.
The avalanche occurred around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, amid heavy snow, on a trail that had just opened for the first time this ski season. As one local resident wrote on social media, "KT-22 opened at 9 AM today (Wed 1/10) for the first time this season. Apparently the first group of skiers up the lift skied down in the bowl under the lift, triggering a massive avalanche that spanned the width of the entire bowl. Multiple people buried. Patrol is up there right now doing search and rescue operations. Multiple people missing. Pray they are found alive."
The resort also reported on the avalanche on Xitter, adding, "Both sides of our mountain will be closed for the day."
The Sierra was expected to get a significant amount of snow Wednesday all day, with a storm system moving in from the north that was forecast to dump around a foot of snow, or more at higher elevations. This followed a similar storm that came through the mountains on Monday.
The Sierra Avalanche Center warned of "considerable" avalanche risk at all elevations on Wednesday in the Sierra backcountry, particularly in the early evening hours today, with gale-force winds adding to the danger.
The Placer County Sheriff's Office responded to the scene at Palisades, as KCRA reports.
The last deadly avalanche at the ski area, formerly known as Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, occurred in January 2020. In that avalanche on the Alpine Meadows side of the resort, one skier was killed and another was injured. The ski area was subsequently sued, and settled the the cases in 2022, as the Chronicle reported.
Update 1:30 p.m.: A Facebook post picked up on the ski blog Powder, by skier Chris Ernst who said he witnessed the avalanche, suggested that there were three people initially buried and all three were found alive.
"Thank You Everyone for your life saving skills. His name is Jason, and by the grace of God he is alive! This happened on East Side of KT 22 at approx 9:35A and a plethora of people helped with 2 different slides that were thick and rapid. At least 3 buried and FOUND," Ernst wrote.
A press conference is expected to provide further details shortly.
Update 2:00 p.m.: Powder and the Chronicle are reporting, via the Placer County Sheriff, that one fatality occurred in the avalanche, and one person was injured. The press conference was moved to 2:30 p.m.
Update 3:30 p.m.: Officials said that the search had ended and that four skiers had been caught up in the avalanche — the debris field of which was said to be 10 feet deep and 150 feet wide. Two skiers were rescued by civilians nearby, and two others had to be dug out by rescue crews. One of those was the deceased skier, a man who was reportedly visiting from elsewhere, who has not been publicly identified, and the other suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
Michael Gross, vice president of mountain operations for Palisades, said at the press conference that it was "absolutely" normal for the mountain to have opened amid today's storm.
"The entire Palisades Tahoe team, including all of the first responders, extend their deepest sympathies to the family and friends of those involved in the incident," Palisades said in a statement.