2 skiers missing at Tahoe after storm

February 3, 2008 6:23:57 PM PST
Search teams scoured snow-covered slopes on Sunday for two missing skiers who were last seen at a Lake Tahoe resort during a storm that dumped more than 2 feet of snow. A new round of rain and snow arrived Sunday in Southern California, where days of heavy rain and snow last week led to avalanche and traffic deaths, minor floods and landslides.

The skiers were reported missing Saturday night at the Alpine Meadows resort just north of Lake Tahoe, said Placer County sheriff's Sgt. Allan Carter.

Authorities have not released the names or hometowns of the missing men, ages 32 and 35, but described them as expert skiers.

They had last been seen Saturday morning at a resort bar listening to advice about different outlying areas to ski. During the night, the area had temperatures in the 20s, high wind and heavy snow.

While authorities were unsure where they went, Carter said rescuers were searching a wide area that included the back side of Alpine Meadows on the west side of the Sierra crest outside the ski resort's boundaries.

"Skiers sometimes get to the top of the crest and say the backside looks great and they go down it. Then they can't get back up," he said.

Carter called the skiers' chances of survival "pretty good" as about 15 members of the Alpine Meadows' ski patrol joined a 10-member sheriff's Nordic team in the search for the skiers.

"If you keep moving and have a positive attitude and know how to construct a snow shelter, you can survive," he said.

Alpine Meadows was closed Sunday because a 12-foot-deep avalanche triggered by an avalanche-control crew covered its main entrance road, Carter said. No one was trapped or injured by the avalanche.

Elsewhere around Lake Tahoe, avalanche control efforts Sunday closed a highway over Carson Pass. Interstate 80 over Donner Summit was reopened Sunday after being closed overnight because of zero visibility and heavy snow.

Pacific Gas and Electric reported power outages for more than 12,000 Northern California customers concentrated in areas hit hard by the snow, including the Sierra foothills and the Yosemite region.

South of Reno, Nev., U.S. 395 in Washoe Valley was closed for several hours Sunday morning after about 20 crashes occurred during periods of zero visibility, Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Scott Simon said.

Residents of Southern California braced themselves for the worst of another winter storm expected to soak lowland areas and coat the mountains with snow.

A winter storm warning, signaling hazardous driving conditions because of blowing snow, was in effect for the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains. Up to a foot of snow was possible at mountain ski resorts.

Jay Rizzo, manager at Three Pines Lodge in Big Bear Lake, said snow was coming down in his mountain resort community about 95 miles east of Los Angeles, but that it was far less intense than last week's storm.

"It's coming down nice and steady right now but not real heavy," Rizzo said.


Associated Press writers Martin Griffith in Reno, Nev., Brian Melley in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., and Thomas Watkins in Los Angeles contributed to this report.