AP: 2 backcountry skiers escape avalanche near Lake Tahoe | SierraSun.com

AP: 2 backcountry skiers escape avalanche near Lake Tahoe

Staff report

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Everyone is safe following an avalanche that has closed the state highway between Reno and Lake Tahoe on Thursday, according to authorities and media reports.

According to the Associated Press, rescue crews said two backcountry skiers were caught in the slide on Highway 431 near Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe, a few miles north of Incline Village.

Washoe County Sheriff's Deputy Jeff McCaskill told the AP that the male and female skiers ended up walking off the mountain on their own after rescue crews responded about 12:20 p.m.

North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District spokeswoman Tia Rancourt says the skiers already were out of harm's way when paramedics arrived, conducted a medical evaluation and released them. No one else was hurt.

Anywhere from 5 to 7.5 feet of snow has fallen in the past four days at upper elevation spots across Tahoe-area ski resorts, according to the National Weather Service.

Nevada Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meg Ragonese told the AP that the avalanche Thursday passed through a few vehicles traveling on the highway west of the summit near an area popular for sledding and cross-country skiing about 30 miles southwest of Reno. She says at least two vehicles ended up getting stuck in several feet of snow, but NDOT snowplows were able to free them.

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Ragonese says the highway would remain closed for an indefinite period Thursday while crews attempt to trigger some man-made avalanches in an effort to reduce the threat of future snow slides.

Blizzard conditions forced the closure of the highway — State Route 431 — most of Wednesday. A small avalanche briefly trapped three vehicles on an access road at the ski resort then, but no one was hurt, according to the AP.