It was Christmas Eve Day and Mike Waggoner and his friends were hoping to enjoy the powder at Donner Ski Ranch. On the second or third chair lift ride of the day, Waggoner heard something. “I heard a roar and saw a big plume of snow coming down the bunny hill towards the lodge,” he told FOX40, “It just wasn’t a small avalanche. It was a pretty serious avalanche. However, the amount of snow despoiled at the bottom really wasn’t that great.”
He kept snowboarding, but as the morning wore on, the worry began.
“Have you seen Rocker? Have you seen Rocker?”
Waggoner’s acquaintance, Steve Anderson, aka ‘Rocker’ was missing. “Rumor was he wasn’t answering his phone, he wasn’t at the car, he wasn’t at the bar, he wasn’t on the mountain,” Waggoner said. The retired firefighter and his friends talked to Donner Ski Ranch ski patrol, but said they seemed unconcerned. “They came back and said, ‘based on eyewitness reports, everything is under control’,” Waggoner told FOX40.
5 hours later, with no action from ski patrol or management at Donner Ski Ranch, Waggoner called the Placer County Sheriff’s Department. From there, he was transferred to Nevada County, because Donner Ski Ranch is just over the county line. Two Nevada County deputies responded to Donner Ski Ranch. They, along with Sugar Bowl Search and Rescue Team went to work.
“Soon after Sugar Bowl personnel initiated a search and rescue, unfortunately it turned into a body recovery,” Waggoner recalls.
Waggoner says he’s not sure Anderson could’ve been saved from the rushing snow, but says the lack of concern is troubling. “From what I personally witnessed, it was a non-response on behalf of ski patrol and Donner Ski Ranch and that is serious.”
Donner Ski Ranch issued this statement:
Press release concerning the avalanche on the 24th: We would like to express our deepest sympathy to the victim and his family. Due to an ongoing investigation, Donner Ski Ranch cannot release any information about the ongoing investigation at this time. The Nevada county sheriff is the local entity in charge. Thank you.