A 29-year-old man who suffered serious injuries in a backcountry avalanche Thursday afternoon near Lake Tahoe has died.
The male skier was transported by ground ambulance at about 5:45 p.m. Thursday to Tahoe Forest Hospital in Truckee, where he was listed in critical condition, according to the Placer County Sheriff's Office.
According to a post to the Sierra Avalanche Center, three skiers trekked up to Stanford Rocks on about 1:30 p.m. Thursday. They dropped a cornice to test the slope. The first skier started down the slope and on the third turn triggered a slab avalanche about a foot deep. He was able to grab onto a tree and stop himself from going further down, then the avalanche dropped to another weak layer and the force pulled the skier away from the tree and down the slope. The man's fellow skiers dug him out of three feet of snow.
According to the Placer County Sheriff's Office, the skier was was found about 500 vertical feet below Stanford Rock in Ward Canyon, located off Highway 89, a few miles from Alpine Meadows Ski Resort.
The skiers had not been on Alpine Meadows Ski Resort property; initial reports indicated the skier was near the backside of the resort and that he may have skied out of bounds prior to the avalanche.
They reached the area from Highway 89, said sheriff's spokeswoman Dena Erwin. After the slide, one skier was able to ski out of the area to request aid. A second skier - who was not injured - stayed with the victim until rescuers arrived.
Rescue crews began the search at around 3 p.m. By 4:40 p.m., authorities reported they were removing the skier. The search was a combined effort of Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue, Placer County Sheriff's Office and the North Tahoe Fire Protection District.
The incident occurred at the tail end of a strong winter storm system that dumped more than four feet of snow at higher elevations around Lake Tahoe.
Wind gusts were very high during the storm, and the Sierra Avalanche Center had listed avalanche danger as "High" Thursday morning, before being downgraded in the afternoon to "Considerable."