Avalanche buries two near Kachina Peak in Taos
TSV: Two skiers extracted, ‘no additional victims’
From Taos News
Two skiers were critically injured in an avalanche on Thursday (Jan. 17) near Kachina Peak, the highest point at Taos Ski Valley ski resort.
According to a press release from the resort, an “inbounds avalanche” occurred in chute three on Kachina Peak just before noon, burying two men, who have not yet been identified.
Rescuers searching the snow extracted the men just before 1 p.m. and performed CPR on them before rushing them to the base of the resort.
According to a report heard on Taos Central Dispatch before 3 p.m., a medic transporting one of the men in an ambulance to Holy Cross Hospital in Taos said she had “one male trauma patient,” for whom she had established an IV and an intubator, a medical device that helps a person breath when they are unconscious.
Taos County Emergency Services Chief Chris Medina said the other man was also in critical condition and was being flown by helicopter to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.
According to a press release from the ski resort, the search for others who might have been buried was called off after 2 p.m., when rescuers determined there to be “no additional victims.”
During the search, dozens of rescuers and volunteers used avalanche probes, shovels and the help of rescue dogs to search the area under the peak for anyone else who might have also been swept under in the slide, Stagg said.
According to Taos News photographer Morgan Timms, who was at the scene of the accident on Thursday, the snow from the avalanche was so deep that the probes, which are as long as 30 feet, could not reach the bottom of the snowpack.
A woman at the scene of the rescue effort who spoke with Timms on the condition of anonymity said she could see – and hear – the moment of the collapse.
“I see two people trying to come down and a third person on the left. They were really good skiers it looked like,” she said and then directed Timms attention to a point near the top of the steep run. “I turned my back to put my bindings on … and then I heard a sound. It sounded like an earthquake coming.”
The witness said a cloud of snow rushed down the run, but she couldn’t see how many people were buried once it settled.
Medics of Taos Volunteer Fire Department also responded to the ski resort on Thursday to provide assistance in the rescue.
The Kachina Peak Ski Valley lift, which provides easy access to expert terrain at the top of the mountain, opened on Jan. 15. It was built in 2015, providing access to sections of the mountain which were previously only accessible on foot.
Chris Stagg, vice president of public relations at the resort, said members of the Taos ski patrol team had detonated explosives in the area of Kachina Peak early Thursday morning in an effort to reduce the risk of an avalanche.
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You may want to read the interview we made last year to Coco Torres, former Head of Operations at Valle de Las Leñas on how to control avalanches in this high -prone avalanche area.
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