Squaw Valley Ski Resort avalanche leaves two injured

A powerful avalanche hit the Squaw Valley Ski Resort on Friday afternoon and crashed down on five people, injuring two.

The avalanche struck hours after the body of a missing snowboarder was found at the resort, which is west of Lake Tahoe. Wenyu Zhang, 42, of Rocklin was found dead Friday morning by the Squaw Valley Ski Patrol, according to the Placer County Sheriff’s Office.

Zhang had been missing since Thursday afternoon.


The resort had used explosives to knock down drifts of snow throughout the day Friday in an attempt to prevent a larger avalanche, but heavy snowfall continued, according to a spokeswoman. More than 100 rescuers used probes and dogs to search for survivors.

The two men and three women were near the Olympic Lady chairlift in an area open to skiers and snowboarders, authorities said. Guests had been warned about the potential danger. After the avalanche, which occurred about 1:40 p.m., the resort was shut down for the rest of the day.

The two injured people were taken to hospitals and one was released by the end of the day Friday. The other suffered a serious but non-life-threatening lower body injury, according to a resort statement.

The storm had dumped 3 feet of snow by Friday and brought 150 mph wind gusts at the highest elevations, closing highways and schools.

Heather Turping, 39, told the Associated Press that she saw a cloud of snow pass a foot in front of her. A woman screamed that her husband was missing and someone spotted his snowboard sticking out of the snow.

Turping helped dig him out and the man was able to snowboard back down the mountain.

The cause of the avalanche remains under investigation.