The holiday weekend and a ton new snow brought many skiers and snowboarders up to the mountains this weekend for some fun on the slopes. Unfortunately, with new snow comes the potential for avalanches and unstable snowpack, a realization made by most skiers too little too late.
Over the weekend in California, two individuals were involved in fatal accidents and a third was seriously injured in three separated slopeside ski accidents.
Just northeast of Fresno, at China Peak Mountain Resort a 30-year old snowboarder died on Sunday after taking a headfirst tumble into an open ski area. The mountain’s owner, Tim Cohee said that approximately 5 feet of new snow fell in the Sierra National Forest throughout the weekend. The snowboarder was unable to dig himself out of the snow and suffocated.
Moving up north to the Sierra-at-Tahoe resort, a 54-year-old Yiwei Hu of Gold River lost his life at the resort after falling into a hole in the Castle Creek area. The hole was created by an underflow of water. It is not immediately clear how long Hu was trapped, but skiers passing by found him at 1:45pm, he was not breathing.
Meanwhile, at Kirkwood Mountain Resort, reports are coming in about a skier who was rushed to the hospital after being injured in a small avalanche. Initial reports indicate that two male skiers were caught up in the avalanche shortly after 2pm. One of the skiers had been able to make it and call ski partol to rescue his trapped friend. The ski patrol reported immediately to the northwestern section of the Sentinel Bowl which is within resort boundaries.
Kirkwood spokesman, Michael Dalzell explained that the skier was taken to a hospital after being injured in a small avalanche, but said he didn’t know the extent of that person’s injury. He went on to detail that, ”Chair 6 was closed as soon as the avalanche was reported. Crews worked in the area to test the snow stability, with the all clear coming at 4:33pm.”
Back east, in New Hampshire’s White Mountains a 47-year-old skier passed away on a chairlift. John Denapoli was found unresponsive on a ski lift at Cannon Mountain in Franconia, NH. According to the New Hampshire State Police, paramedics who arrived on the scene were unable to revive him. They went on to explain that there were no signs of the deceased having any ski-related or suspicious injuries. Additional details will be revealed after an autopsy.
Moral of the story? Regardless of the applicability to these specific scenarios, skiers and snowboarders must maintain their vigilance against the caveats inherent to a weekend on the mountain. Always remember to check the weather forecast and avalanche warnings. Make sure you know your surroundings and the nature of the slope you are skiing. And most importantly, stay close to your fellow skiers and snowboarders — there is no substitute for adhering to the buddy system — it could save a life!
Expect additional details on these stories as they are released . In the meantime, our hearts and thoughts go out to the families of the deceased. We are hoping for a speedy recovery for the individual injured in the Kirkwood avalanche.