Deadly Avalanche Kills Skier

Rescue crews rushed to Alpine Meadows after skinners reported a friend was swept up in an avalanche.

The 29-year-old man who was swept up in an avalanche in Alpine Meadows Thursday died of his injuries hours later at a Tahoe area hospital.

Rescue crews rushed to Stanford Rock in Alpine Meadows after "skinners" reported a friend was swept up in an avalanche.

The  rescue call came just before 3 p.m.

Rescuers said they located the injured man 500 vertical feet below Stanford Rock.

The skiers, all men in their 20's, were in extremely rugged terrain in an "area that was difficult to reach," according to rescuers on scene.  One rescuer described the slide as "pretty big" and said the injured man was "caught in the slide from the get go and was taken down the mountain quite a ways - probably 300 feet," adding he ended up with his body wrapped around a tree.

The sheriff's office said the group was "skinning," which is something you do with skis, but the object is to go uphill instead of downhill. It is more like hiking than skiing. You strap on a skin made of fibers that help the ski grip to the snow.

A snowcat, two snowmobiles and a team of skiers from the Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue team began their attempts to reach the skier minutes after the first call. They reached him by 4 p.m. and were able to get him out of the area strapped in a basket about 90 minutes later. They had to climb at least 1,000 feet to get to the man and said they had to do CPR on the way down. 

The unidentified male was with two other people when the avalanche happened, the sheriff's office said. They added that the three of them actually caused the avalanche as they climbed up the mountain.

After the snow came down the hill, one man was able to get out of the area and notify authorities.  A second person stayed behind with the injured man.

Ski magazine explains skinning this way:

Skinning is crucial in the side- or backcountry because it’s more efficient and less tiring than hiking in deep snow. The fur-like surface of skins flattens as you move uphill, allowing your skis to glide, but it grips to keep you from sliding back after each step.

The area reported 52" of snow had fallen by Thursday morning, with more snow falling during the day.

A person at Alpine Meadows ski resort wanted to make it clear the avalanche did not happen at the resort. Stanford Rock is actually miles away from the ski area and closer to Lake Tahoe. It is on the backside of Alpine Meadows and is a popular walking trail in the summer. The area where the avalanche happened was possibly forest service land, according to KCRA.

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