A powerful avalanche Friday at Squaw Valley Ski Resort above Lake Tahoe in Northern California buried five skiers and snowboarders, injuring two, officials reported.
After digging out survivors and using probes and dogs to search for others, Placer County sheriff’s officials confirmed that everyone on the slope had been rescued.
The injured were taken to hospitals, and one was released by the end of the day. The other suffered a “serious” lower body injury, but the injury was not life-threatening, according to a statement from the ski resort and police. The resort was shut down for the rest of the day.
Dramatic video posted to Twitter showed a survivor being dug out of the snow.
About 100 police officers, ski patrol members from Squaw Valley and nearby mountains, firefighters, and search-and-rescue team members rushed to the slope as soon as the avalanche was reported at 1:40 p.m. Friday near the Olympic Lady chairlift, according to a statement by the resort. Squaw Valley hosted the Winter Olympics in 1960.
Officials are investigating what may have triggered the avalanche. But it came in the wake of 150 mph wind gusts at the highest elevations and a blizzard that dumped nearly 3 feet of snow by Friday. The storm closed highways and schools.
The Squaw Valley resort website on Friday boasted “nearly 5 feet of snow in 7 days (still snowing!)”
An additional foot of snow is expected by Saturday and an avalanche warning was issued for the back country of the greater Tahoe area until early Saturday.
Police are continuing to investigate the death of a snowboarder found nearby at the resort, but the body was recovered before the avalanche hit, according to officials.
The snowboarder — identified by police as 42-year-old Wenyu Zhang of California — was reported missing by his friends late Thursday during the blizzard. His body was located by the Squaw Valley ski patrol early Friday. The cause of his death hadn’t been determined by Friday evening.