Two killed in area ski accidents | SierraSun.com

Two killed in area ski accidents

Gregory Crofton, Sun News Service

An 11-year-old girl from Stockton, Calif., hit a tree and died at Squaw Valley USA on Saturday. She is the second person to die at a Tahoe winter resort in a week.

Farah Aleem Mirza skied into a tree at the bottom of Bailey’s Beach, a run that ends at mid-mountain and rated “easiest” by Squaw. Her friends witnessed the crash and called ski patrol. When patrollers arrived she was unconscious but still had a pulse.

She had suffered severe head trauma and other injuries. Patrollers called for an air ambulance before they loaded her onto a tram. During the tram ride Mirza went into cardiac arrest. Medics met Mirza at the bottom of the mountain but were not able to revive her, said the Placer County Sheriff’s Department.

Mirza had been skiing at Squaw with her friends and family. Her death was preceded by a fatal accident on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at Heavenly Ski Resort involving Mark Betzold, a 31-year-old from San Jose, Calif.

Betzold lost his footing at the top of East Bowl, an expert trail off the Gunbarrel Express lift. The trail had been roped off and closed because of its hardpack snow. Betzold was holding his snowboard when he began a 1,000-foot slide.

This week also produced a large number of snow-related injuries. Cal Star, an air ambulance based at the Lake Tahoe Airport in South Lake Tahoe, said since Jan. 1 it has transported 18 patients, 13 of whom were injured on skis, a snowboard or a snowmobile.

“We’ve seen a number of head injuries, broken limbs and massive trauma which resulted in death,” said Bob Griffith, chief flight nurse. “(In the fall) our volume was minimal, maybe one over the weekend. Now we’re transporting upwards of four or five patients.”

Because of recent warm temperatures during the day and cold ones at night, the snow becomes “bulletproof,” or frozen, until the sun has time to soften it.

“The hardpack snow is lending itself to a few more injuries,” said South Lake Tahoe fire Battalion Chief Scott Douglass. “Anytime you add heat to the snowpack it goes through a melt-freeze cycle that sets up more hardpack.”

In other ski mishap news, three snowboarders were found safely Friday after being lost of out bounds at Alpine Meadows Ski Area.

On Friday at about 3:31 p.m., the Placer County Sheriff’s Office received a report of three snowboarders lost in the area of Ward Peak. Two of the snowboarders were quickly found and rescued by helicopter around 4:30 p.m., while a third had wandered further into the Granite Chief Wilderness area and was located an hour or two later.

The snowboarders were identified as David Mathers, 31, of San Francisco, Haysam Elgazzar, 29, of La Palma, Calif., and Eric Reynolds, 25, of Davis, Calif. All were in good health.