• U.S.
  • California

What We Know So Far About the Deadly Avalanche at Palisades Tahoe Ski Resort

4 minute read
Updated: | Originally published:

Amid a heavy snowstorm, an avalanche ripped through part of a trail at Palisades Tahoe (formerly known as Squaw Valley), the largest ski resort in California’s Lake Tahoe region, on Wednesday morning, killing one and injuring three others.

This marks the first avalanche fatality in the country for the 2023-2024 winter season, according to a national database by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Thirty people were killed by avalanches in the 2022-2023 winter season, while 17 were killed the previous season.

It was the first day this ski season that the resort’s popular K-22 chairlift was opened. Touted as the “greatest expert lift in North America,” it’s known to service challenging terrain often visited by expert skiers and snowboarders.

Despite the tragedy, visitors returned to the slopes on Thursday, though the K-22 terrain remains closed. A second avalanche struck another section of the Palisades Tahoe resort on Thursday, but no further casualties have been reported.

Investigations of the cause of Wednesday’s deadly avalanche are still ongoing, authorities say. Here’s everything we know so far:

1 dead, 3 injured

The Palisades Tahoe ski resort said in a statement that over 100 resort personnel, supported by members of the public, completed a search of the area. They found a male skier who had “sustained fatal injuries” and was pronounced dead by a local hospital. 

In a post on X, the Placer County Sheriff's Office identified the victim as Kenneth Kidd, a 66-year-old resident of both Point Reyes and the Truckee area. 

Three other skiers had “non-life threatening injuries” and were released after receiving treatment, said the ski resort. Authorities said that one of them had suffered a lower leg injury while the other two had unspecified injuries.

Photos and videos on social media showed skiers at the resort engaging in rescue efforts, using their hands and other equipment to dig through the snow. Jason Parker, a snowboarder who was initially buried by the avalanche on Wednesday and quickly rescued, told NBC News that the snow had “entombed” him and felt like a “tub of concrete.”

“You’re helpless,” said Parker, who injured his knee from the incident. “Your only hope is for somebody to find you.”

“The entire Palisades Tahoe team, including all of the first responders, extend their deepest sympathies to the family and friends of those involved in the incident,” the statement from Palisades Tahoe said.

No other missing persons were reported, authorities said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

Cause under investigation

What triggered Wednesday’s avalanche remains unclear, with Palisades Tahoe and authorities saying that investigations are still underway. 

Before the storm on Wednesday, the region had experienced days of heavy snowfall—which is expected to continue until Thursday morning.

The ski resort’s patrol team had undertaken avalanche assessments since Sunday, Michael Gross, vice president of mountain operations at Palisades Tahoe, said at the press briefing. “So for the past few days they’ve been up there doing control work, evaluating weather conditions, setting up all safety markings, hazard markings, et cetera, to get them prepared for today’s opening,” he said.

Gross added that it was normal to open amid heavy snow after the team has evaluated the conditions and deemed it safe.

The debris left by Wednesday’s avalanche was approximately 150 feet (45.7 meters) wide, 450 feet long and 10 feet deep, said the sheriff’s office.

Palisades Tahoe’s history

Opened in 1949, the ski resort in Olympic Valley, California, is the largest of its kind in the Lake Tahoe region, with 6,000 skiable acres across two mountains that range from beginner-friendly routes to expert runs, according to its website

Since hosting the 1960 Winter Olympics, Palisades Tahoe has been a popular site of choice for international ski competitions, including the ongoing FIS Ski World Cup

While it’s best known for its skiing facilities, Palisades Tahoe also attracts visitors in the summer for hiking and cycling the trails.

However, avalanches have posed a longstanding threat to the area. Last year, an apartment near Palisades Tahoe was struck by an avalanche, forcing residents in surrounding buildings to evacuate. 

Another avalanche in 2020 at the Alpine Meadows ski resort, part of Palisades Tahoe, killed a 34-year-old skier and seriously injured another. In a lawsuit that was settled in 2022, Palisades Tahoe was accused of negligence by the late skier’s wife and close friend, who claimed that the resort had rushed to open the slopes despite unsafe conditions.

Kidd, the victim in Wednesday’s avalanche, was a guest at the resort, resort representatives said. “This is a very sad day for my team and everyone here,” Dee Byrne, president of Palisades Tahoe, said at the press briefing on Wednesday.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com