1/18/2019 10:12:00 AM 2 rescued from avalanche at Taos ski area
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An avalanche rushed down a mountainside at a New Mexico ski resort on Thursday, injuring two people who were pulled from the snow after a roughly 20-minute rescue effort, a resort spokesman said.
The avalanche near the highest peak of Taos Ski Valley happened around 11:30 a.m., initially spurring fears among authorities that more victims may be buried on the mountain before witnesses told them they had not seen any other people on the slope when the slide began.
Still, a precautionary search of the mountain continued through much of the afternoon to ensure no other people remained trapped, said both Chris Stagg, a spokesman for Taos Ski Valley, and Bobby Lucero, the director for emergency management in Taos County.
The extent of the injuries for the two people, both males, was not immediately known. They were taken to hospitals in Albuquerque and Taos.
The avalanche happened on a stretch of mountain known as the K3 chute, where expert skiers who ride a lift to Kachina Peak can dart down a partially rock-lined run. It was unknown what triggered the avalanche, but the ski resort said an investigation was planned.
Stagg said the accident happened despite the resort taking a series of precautions Thursday morning that included sending ski patrollers to evaluate conditions and detonate explosives — a measure meant to trigger any potential slide before skiers take to the slopes. The resort also delayed opening the lift to Kachina Peak at the start of the day, Stagg said.
“We had checked that area for avalanche conditions this morning and enacted controls,” he said. “This is a great example that you’re never 100 percent certain.”
Taos Ski Valley’s terrain covers a 1,200-acre area of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. Its Kachina Peak is a nearly 12,500-foot summit.
According to the Taos News , which was first to report on the avalanche, CPR had been given to the two people found beneath the snow.
George Brooks, the director of the nonprofit Ski New Mexico, which promotes the sport, said avalanches are fairly rare in the state and typically terrain is very well controlled. The avalanche comes as the region enjoys one of its better ski seasons in recent years after a spell of dry winters.