Rescues crews work at the scene of an avalanche at a California ski resort near Lake Tahoe on Jan. 10, 2024 in Calif.
© Mark SponslerRescues crews work at the scene of an avalanche at a California ski resort near Lake Tahoe on Jan. 10, 2024 in Calif.
An avalanche roared through a section of expert trails at a California ski resort near Lake Tahoe on Wednesday, sweeping up four people and killing one, as a major storm with snow and gusty winds moved into the region, authorities said.

The avalanche prompted Palisades Tahoe to close 30 minutes after it opened, and search crews combed the area to see if anyone was injured or trapped.

Sgt David Smith, a spokesperson for the Placer county sheriff, said hours later that one person, a man, had died. Another person suffered a lower leg injury and two others were treated for unspecified injuries and released, officials said.

Authorities said nobody else was missing.

The avalanche occurred around 9.30am on steep slopes under the KT-22 lift, which serves "black diamond" runs for skilled skiers and snowboarders. Palisades Tahoe said in a statement on Twitter/X that its search teams were checking an area called GS Gully and that both sides of the mountain at the resort would be closed for the rest of the day.

The avalanche happened as a powerful storm was expected to bring as much as 2ft (61cm) of snow to the highest elevations by early Thursday.

Palisades, the site for the 1960 Winter Olympics, is on the western side of Lake Tahoe, about 40 miles (64km) from Reno, Nevada. The National Weather Service in Reno said 2in (5cm) could fall per hour on Wednesday around the lake.

A 110mph (177km/h) gust was recorded on Tuesday afternoon at the summit of Alpine Meadows, the adjoining resort, the weather service said.

Dan Lavely, 67, of Reno, a season pass holder at Palisades, skied mostly at Alpine Meadows on Monday when there was very little snow and the KT-22 lift was closed.

"They didn't have enough snow to open the lift, it wasn't even running ... Today was supposed to be the first day they opened KT-22," he said.

The steep run along the side of the lift is where the grand slalom was held during the 1960 Olympics, he said.

"Really good skiers love it because it's really steep," he said. "I remember when I was really young I was skiing around there. I fell over and slid like two-thirds of the way down the mountain. There was no way to stop because it's just so steep."

Lavely doubted there were many people on the mountain at the time of Wednesday's avalanche because of the early hour, the lack of snow and the high winds.

"But there are powder hounds" who "like to ski in this type of storm", he said.

A 2020 avalanche at Alpine Meadows killed one skier and seriously injured another a day after a major storm. Another avalanche at Alpine Meadows in March 1982 killed seven people, including several employees of the ski resort.

Source: Associated Press