Snowboarder dies in avalanche at Tahoe-area resort

December 24, 2012 - 11:32 PM

TRUCKEE, Calif. (AP) — A 49-year-old California man died Monday after being buried in an avalanche while snowboarding at a Sierra ski resort, one of several avalanche-related emergencies in the Lake Tahoe area after recent storms dumped up to 3 feet of fresh snow.

Donner Ski Ranch, about 90 miles northeast of Sacramento, closed as rescue teams began their search.

The Nevada County Sheriff's Department identified the man as Steven Mark Anderson of Hirschdale, an unincorporated community outside Truckee, after notifying his brother.

The sheriff's department received a call about the missing man at noon Monday, nearly three hours after the avalanche. Deputy David Lade said it took that long for Anderson's friends to determine he was missing. The friends had not been skiing as a group, but rather went their own way in the morning, Lade said.

"They spent a lot of time trying to locate him," he said.

A search dog found the man's body about 1:30 p.m. under 2 to 3 feet of snow at the base of the avalanche. Lade said the wind had blown snow to depths to 7 feet or more where the man was snowboarding, which was inside the ski area's boundaries near the main lodge.

Anderson was believed to be the only person caught in the slide, Lade said.

Tahoe-area ski resorts received at least 3 feet of snow in a wind-whipped series of storms from Friday through Sunday, leading to perilous conditions even within ski area boundaries.

"With the extremely heavy snowfall we've gotten over the last three days and the conditions prior to that, it's prime avalanche conditions," Lade said.

Two neighboring ski resorts, Squaw Valley USA and Alpine Meadows, also reported dangerous avalanches. A veteran ski patroller at Alpine Meadows was taken Monday to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno after being buried in a slide that had been intentionally set with an explosive device.

"The charge triggered the avalanche, which broke much higher and wider on the slope than previously observed in past snow safety missions," the resort said in a statement.

The patroller, who had 28 years of experience at the resort, was uncovered within eight minutes. Resort spokeswoman Amelia Richmond said she could not release his condition, and the hospital did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The ski patrol team was doing avalanche control in Sherwood Bowl, which is within the boundaries on the back side of resort.

On Sunday, two skiers at Squaw Valley — a 39-year-old woman and 16-year-old boy — were treated for non-life threatening injuries after they were swept up in an avalanche, although neither had been buried.

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Associated Press writers Tom Verdin and Judy Lin in Sacramento, and Scott Sonner in Reno, Nev., contributed to this report.