Rescues crews work at the scene of an avalanche at the Palisades Tahoe ski resort on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, near Lake Tahoe, California. Image Credit: AP

California: One skier was killed and another received minor injuries in an avalanche at the Palisades Tahoe ski resort in California on Wednesday, officials said.

The Placer County Sheriff's Office said in a written statement that Kenneth Kidd, 66, was the person killed.

Both Kidd and the injured skier were guests of the resort and not employees, resort officials said. One person suffered a lower leg injury and two others were treated for unspecified injuries and released, officials said.

Authorities said nobody else was missing.

"At this point in time, all search efforts have concluded," said Placer County Sheriff's Office spokesperson David Smith.

"There is nobody else up on the mountain." Palisades Tahoe, which was formerly known as Squaw Valley and was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, is located about 100 miles (161 km) northeast of San Francisco.

The avalanche took place around 9:30 a.m. PT (1730 GMT) in the "GS gully" area of the ski resort, just off its famed KT-22 ski lift that opened for the season on Wednesday.

"This is a very sad day for my team," Dee Byrne, president and chief operating officer of the resort, said at a press conference. "This is a dynamic situation, we're still undergoing an investigation." It was not immediately clear what triggered the avalanche, but heavy snows and high winds have pounded the mountainous area for the past day.

Michael Gross, vice president of mountain operations at Palisades Tahoe, said at the press conference that the resort's ski patrol had been carrying out avalanche assessments in the area where the slide took place since Sunday and deemed it safe to open to the public.

He said it was normal to open a ski run amid heavy snows.

The Placer County Sheriff's Office said in a statement that the avalanche debris field was approximately 150 feet (45.7 m) wide, 450 feet long and 10 feet deep.

The popular lift opened Wednesday for the first time this season. Palisades Tahoe said in a statement on X, formerly Twitter, that the entire resort would be closed for the rest of the day.

The person who was killed was a guest at the resort and from out of town, officials said.

Skier Mark Sponsler said he arrived at the KT-22 lift around 9:30 a.m. amid howling winds and white-out conditions to find it shut down. Unbeknownst to him, the avalanche had just hit.

He spoke to someone who was in the second group to ride up. That person had watched the disaster strike from above, said Sponsler, a veteran weather forecaster and founder of stormsurf.com.

“There was screaming, there were skis and poles and a hand sticking up out of the snow,” Sponsler said the witness told him.

The cause of the avalanche is under investigation, officials said. It happened as a powerful storm was expected to bring as much as 2 feet (61 centimeters) of snow to the highest elevations by early Thursday.

Rescues crews work at the scene of an avalanche at the Palisades Tahoe ski resort. The avalanche roared through a section of expert trails at the ski resort as a major storm with snow and gusty winds moved into the region, authorities said.

Palisades, the site for the 1960 Winter Olympics, is on the western side of Lake Tahoe, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Reno, Nevada. The National Weather Service in Reno said 2 inches (5 centimeters) could fall per hour Wednesday around the lake.

Winds at the top of Palisades resort (8,000 feet) were gusting between 31 mph and 38 mph between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Dan Lavely, 67, of Reno is a season pass holder at Palisades and skied mostly at Alpine Meadows on Monday when there was very little snow and the KT-22 lift was closed.

“They didn’t have enough snow to open the lift, it wasn’t even running. ... Today was supposed to be the first day they opened KT-22,” he said.

The steep run along the side of the lift is where the giant slalom was held during the 1960 Olympics, he said.

“Really good skiers love it because it’s really steep," he said. "I remember when I was really young I was skiing around there. I fell over and slid like two-thirds of the way down the mountain. There was no way to stop because it’s just so steep.”

The death Wednesday was the first U.S. avalanche fatality of the season, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, which monitors nationwide.

A 2020 avalanche at Alpine Meadows killed one skier and seriously injured another a day after a major storm. Another avalanche at the resort in March 1982 killed seven people, including several employees.