Truckee woman dies in avalanche
An avalanche buried eight skiers on a remote mountain in British Columbia on Monday, killing seven of them, including Truckee resident Kathy Kessler, 39.
Kessler, a local realtor and businesswoman, was skiing in the Selkirk Range of the Canadian Rockies with 24 others, including several local residents who were not involved in the accident.
“She had been planning on this trip since this summer and training with her husband,” said Sandy Casey, Kessler’s good friend and the owner of Tahoe Resort Properties, where Kessler worked. “She was a total athlete. She was bigger than life.”
The skiing party was flown by helicopter to the Selkirk Mountain Experience to the company’s chalet near the glacier, 6,360 feet above sea level. The group was traversing the mountain when the avalanche occurred, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said.
The skiers were buried by a wall of snow, 100 feet wide and six- to 15-feet deep, according to police and rescue officials. Three skiers were able to escape the avalanche, which tumbled from 300 feet above, and rescued one person.
Thirteen other skiers avoided serious injury.
Kessler, who was born July 29, 1963 in Orange County, Calif., was a realtor associate at Tahoe Resort Properties and lived with her husband, Scott, in the Donner Lake area since 1999.
“This was a woman who truly loved Truckee,” said Truckee Mayor Ted Owens, who had known Kessler for over 10 years, “and she showed that most recently with her effort in Donner Lake water issues.”
As a water specialist with the Nevada County Department of Environmental Health, Kessler spent thousands of hours working toward making Donner Lake’s water system safe.
“The L.A. Times did a huge article on her after that,” Casey said. “They called her ‘Donner Lake’s version of Erin Brockovich.'”
Kessler was in real estate for two years after leaving the department of environmental health.
Casey said the mood around the office on Tuesday was melancholy to say the least.
“We’re just devastated. She was the most amazing person,” Casey said. “She was a dynamo. She really cared about her clients.”
Although official word of Kessler’s death had not been released by Tuesday evening, Truckee family members were notified of her death Monday.
The names of others killed were not made public at press time, but police said the other Americans were a 49-year-old man from Littleton, Colo., and a 50-year-old man from Los Angeles.
The Canadians included four-time world champion snowboarder Craig Kelly, 36, from Nelson, British Columbia, a 50-year-old man from Canmore, Alberta, a 25-year-old woman from Calgary, Alberta, and a 30-year-old man from New Westminster, British Columbia.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.