(CTN News) – A mid-morning avalanche closed Palisades Tahoe, causing officials to search for injured or trapped skiers.
Around 9:30 a.m., an avalanche occurred the Palisades side of Lake Tahoe resort, X, formerly Twitter, reported. Both sides of our mountain will be closed for the day as our patrol and mountain operations teams search.
As of yet, it was not known how many people were injured by the cascading snow. In response to a Chronicle inquiry, an Olympic Valley Fire Department official declined to share any information and referred the Chronicle to Palisades Tahoe. A spokesperson for the ski resort did not respond to calls and texts seeking more information.
Palisades Tahoe and Alpine ski resorts closed all lifts Wednesday at 10:46 a.m., the resort tweeted. An avalanche threat was high in the Tahoe region Wednesday and Thursday, according to the Sierra Avalanche Center, which predicts avalanches will occur “in a variety of areas by this afternoon.”
It was the first day that Palisades’ famous KT-22 chairlift opened after a slow winter season. The chairlift had queued up early in the morning with skiers and snowboarders.
Wednesday morning, Bay Area skier and snow forecaster Mark Sponsler and his wife arrived at Olympic Valley’s Palisades base area.
It was already 9:15 when they arrived, so the lifts had already been shut down. Sponsler said the harrowing nature of the situation became evident after talking to ski patrollers and skiers on the KT-22 chairlift.
Sponsler said that when the first group of skiers started skiing down the bowl, the bowl’s top literally broke loose and slid down the hill. The person who witnessed the event said they saw at least five people disappear under the snow, and only one of them emerged. In the snow, skis and poles were sticking up.”
A slide of this size isn’t small, Sponsler said. The slide area was probed by waves of searchers.
The ski resort was surrounded by ambulances, law enforcement and public safety officials, according to amateur storm chaser Michael Steinberg. Tahoe Forest Hospital was notified of the avalanche “within moments of its occurrence” just before noon. As of yet, no patients been injured at the hospital.
A major winter storm was expected to bring heavy snow to parts of Northern California, including Lake Tahoe. Areas above 4,000 feet could receive up to three inches of snow per hour until 5 p.m.