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Ski resort seeks prosecution of snowboarder who they say triggered avalanche

A California ski resort wants criminal charges against a snowboarder who allegedly triggered an avalanche Friday in a closed area at Donner Summit.

Snowboarder Christian Michael Mares gained attention after a YouTube video showed him tumbling in the avalanche at the Sugar Bowl Resort in Norden, Calif. Mares, who officials said was not a resort season pass holder, was wearing a GoPro camera.

“Yup, that just happened,” Mares said as he struggled to move from the fall.

Later on Facebook, he said, “Luckily I swam my way to the top and didn't get buried. I def got lucky.”

Resort officials said they investigated the incident and are now working with the Placer County Sheriff’s Department as they seek Mares' prosecution. Mares trespassed into a closed area in the resort, officials said.

The avalanche was triggered at about 12:45 p.m. after resort officials said Mares was “knowingly traversing” in the closed area of “Perco’s.” The area has been closed to the public since the 2010-2011 ski season and is clearly marked as off limits, the resort said.

The area, they said, was an active avalanche zone.

“As such, Mares put himself, his friends, ski patrol and the skiing public at risk,” the resort said in a statement.

In the past, when skiers with season passes have entered closed areas, resort management officials would pull their privileges and ban them for a period of time. But resort officials said Mares' actions were far too extreme; they chose to turn the incident over to the Sheriff’s Department.

“The irresponsible and reckless decision to snowboard or ski in closed terrain endangers other skiers and ski patrol, and will not be tolerated,” the resort said. “Sugar Bowl Resort urges all skiers and riders to respect terrain closures and mountain signage for their own safety and the safety of others.”

Mares took to Facebook to say the resort’s account was biased and that no one from the Sheriff’s Department or resort has been available to talk to him.

Resort officials said the avalanche was not connected to a recent search for missing ski instructor Carson May, who disappeared last Thursday and was not found. The search and rescue operation for May, 23, was suspended Tuesday.

For breaking news in California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA on Twitter.

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