Sierra ski patrol member killed by avalanche, following explosive charge accident


Kramer Phillips

Another avalanche, another death.

According to early reports, a member of a Sierra ski resort’s patrol team who was injured on Monday after being caught in an avalanche has died, the second death connected to avalanches that occurred in the area earlier this week.

Bill Foster, 53, died at Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, Nevada, where he was taken after Monday’s avalanche. The resort at which the avalanche occurred is Alpine Meadows near Lake Tahoe.

“Bill was one of Alpine Meadows’ very best and most experienced professional ski patrollers,” resort spokeswoman Amelia Richmond said in a statement. “Our deepest sympathies, thoughts and prayers continue to be with Bill’s wife and all of their family and friends.”

“The avalanche was triggered by an explosive charge that had been thrown by a senior member of the ski patrol team,” Richmond continued. “The patrol team members were positioned in an area that was, based on historical experience, believed to have been a protected area. The … avalanche broke much higher and wider on the slope than previously observed in past snow safety missions.”

Foster, who was a ski patroller for 28 years, was part of a team who were performing “routine snow safety” in the Sherwood Bowl area of the resort Monday morning when an avalanche was triggered by an explosive charge thrown by a senior patroller, the resort spokeswoman said. Covered by snow immediately, the Alpine Meadows ski patroller was reportedly recovered within minutes, given CPR and transported via helicopter to the nearest hospital.

Foster’s death comes just days after a 49-year-old California man was killed after being buried in an avalanche while snowboarding at a Sierra ski resort, one of several avalanche-related emergencies in the Lake Tahoe area after recent storms dumped up to three feet of fresh snow.  A search dog found his body under two to three feet of snow at the base of the avalanche, police deputies said in a statement.

The avalanche broke much higher and wider on the slope than in past snow safety missions, according to the resort. An investigation into how the team was caught in the avalanche is in the process, said the resort’s spokesman.  The area was closed to the public at the time of the avalanche.

The series of avalanches has spurred warnings from state officials. The Avalanche Center said skiers and hikers should choose their routes carefully, particularly on steep back-country terrain, said Marvin Boyd of the National Weather Service in Reno. Weather forecaster have warned that the Sierra snowpack is weak and vulnerable to collapse after a snowfall of nearly five feet since Friday.

The resorts reported a cumulative snowfall of 220 inches this season, the highest pre-Christmas total, apart from a record level two years ago, since they started keeping tabs in 1970.

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Another avalanche, another death.

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