Two In-bound Avalanches Hit California Ski Areas

An avalanche hit Friday, March 2nd at the Squaw Valley Ski Resort and caught five people in its wake.

This was just one day after a snowboarder died there during a blizzard as a winter storm rolled through California. Wenyu Zhang, 42, vanished Thursday as the region was hit by a blizzard packing winds gusting to nearly 150 mph over the ridge tops. It dumped 3 feet of snow in the mountains. His body was recovered the following day.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort said the avalanche happened just before 2 p.m. on Friday, and injured two people, one seriously. Three others escaped without being hurt from the slide. The rescue response included 100 police officers, firefighters and ski patrol members from Squaw Valley and nearby communities.

The day of the first avalanche, the National Weather Service said mountains in Ventura and Los Angeles counties could see up to a foot of new snow at higher elevations.

The forecast was accurate and resulted in a second avalanche at Mammoth Mountain. Ski Patrol were working to knock down overhangs in hopes of preventing an avalanche. Unfortunately, one was triggered and eight people were partially buried in snow. Initially the avalanche rolled down an area that was closed to skiing, but then traveled into in-bound trails.

Two guests were partially buried in the snow but were able to free themselves. Burke said they were uninjured. Six employees were also hit toward the bottom of a ski lift. They were also able to free themselves but suffered minor injuries.

Rescue crews, with more than 200 people and search dogs, scoured the area for hours to find others who might be trapped.