Two recent deaths at Tahoe Area resorts are drawing attention to the risk of avalanches.
The Sierra Avalanche Center puts out a daily forecast, rating the danger level on a scale that ranges from low to extreme. This week, the danger has ranged from moderate to considerable.
Forecasters say heavy snow loads are sitting on top of weaker slabs of deep snow. And while natural avalanches are possible, it is more likely for avalanches to be triggered by humans in these conditions.
A controlled dynamite blast triggered an avalanche at Alpine Meadows on Tuesday, killing 53-year-old Bill Foster, a veteran ski patrol worker. According to the resort, the blast caused more than the expected amount of snow to break loose.
A separate avalanche, also on Tuesday, claimed the life of a snowboarder at Donner Ski Ranch. Steven Mark Anderson was found buried under between two and three feet of snow.
According to the avalanche center’s December 26 online briefing, “Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route finding, and conservative decision making are essential” for outdoor enthusiasts.
In these conditions, snow patrol workers often urge skiers and snowboarders to stay within groomed resort runs.