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Skiers warned of slide dangers

SHANNON DARLING, Sierra Sun

The deaths of Brendan Allan and Bryan Richmond, two nationally ranked skiers, has shocked the community but also brought to light that skiing the backside of Squaw Valley USA’s KT-22 is illegal.

“Consistent disregarding of the law and avalanche awareness leadership of Gary Allan, led the decedents to a false sense of security in this very hazardous environment,” said a Placer County Sheriff’s report by Deputy Dan Ingalls.

They were both skiing illegally on private land toward Allan’s home, on Alpine Meadows Road.

Although it is believed that the boys had skied the route many times before, others point out the two were breaking the law.

“When you duck the rope at KT you’re ducking the Squaw Valley closure and the Troy Caldwell closure,” said Mike Boone, the late Brendan Allan’s step-father.

The deadly avalanche was triggered Feb. 21 on a stretch of property between Squaw Valley’s ski area and Alpine Meadows. The acreage is owned by Troy Caldwell and is illegal to ski.

“That property has been private for years,” said Boone.

Not only is the area private property, it’s also dangerous and the site of many previous avalanches, garnering some of the slide areas a High Avalanche Hazard designation.

“When you go back there you can die,” said Boone. “When you see a closed sign – there shouldn’t be a second thought.”

The North Lake Tahoe community still grieves the loss of Allan and Richmond, yet others continue to drop off the backside of KT-22.

Another avalanche was triggered Sunday on the backside of Squaw Valley USA’s KT-22 peak. Tracks leading into the 300-foot slide prompted an extensive search.

The search area was in the same area Allan and Richmond were killed.

Squaw Valley ski patroller Craig Noble spotted the tracks and followed them into the slide.

“There were no tracks coming out of the avalanche area,” said Detective Sgt. Jeff Granum, Placer County Sheriff’s Office.

The search started at noon Sunday and lasted until 2:30 p.m. Members of the Squaw Valley Ski Patrol, Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue and the Placer County Sheriff’s Department extensively probed the slide area known as East Gully and found no sign of trapped skiers.

According to Granum, tracks leading out of the slide area were probably covered when Noble triggered another slide upon his arrival on the scene.

According to Granum they are 96 percent sure no one is trapped under the snow. No missing person report has been filed as of Wednesday and no abandoned vehicles were noticed in the Squaw Valley parking lot.

But still, powder hunters seeking challenging terrain continue to drop into this illegal terrain.

“We sighted two guys on the 26th,” said Deputy Dave Hunt with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office.

Skiing in a closed area is considered trespassing and those caught will be cited, Hunt explained. However, the Placer County Sheriff’s Office can only cite individuals skiing illegally if they are called in by a member of the ski patrol.

Squaw Valley does admit they are watching the area a little closer but are trying to focus more on educating their employees and customers rather than punishing them.

“We try to catch people,” said Katja Dahl, public relations director for Squaw Valley Ski Corp. “The mountain is constantly monitored.”

Providing a safe experience and a little education is what Squaw Valley hopes to do in the aftermath of the avalanche tragedy.

“People need to be aware of their surroundings and mindful of the boundaries,” said Dahl.

So far, the Squaw Valley ski corporation has held a class on avalanche safety at Prosser Creek Charter School in Truckee and will hold an avalanche safety class for children on the Squaw Valley Ski Team on Saturday.

“It’s not a full-blown campaign, but we are trying to educate people,” said Dahl.


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