Bay Area skier identified as Palisades Tahoe avalanche victim

The skier killed in an avalanche at the Palisades Tahoe ski resort near Lake Tahoe Wednesday has been identified as Kenneth Kidd, 66, who had residences in Truckee and Point Reyes.

The avalanche happened about 9:30 a.m., just 30 minutes after the resort opened its KT-22 lift that carried the first skiers up to the highest expert-level black diamond slopes.

"We were pulling into the lot right as the avalanche happened," said Mark Sponsler, a skier from Castro Valley who also is a veteran weather forecaster. He says he saw rescuers rushing to the mountain.

"Other patrollers with search dogs were going up on the lifts so it was an all hands on deck operation," Sponsler said.

Officials say more than one hundred staff, first-responders, and volunteers dug in the snow and surveyed the area trying to find survivors. The Placer County Sheriff's office said the avalanche debris area was about 150 feet wide and 450 feet long.

"As I was there, I saw snowmobiles and ski patrol snowmobile down – towing the sled, with an individual, in the sled, and they went over toward the clinic at the base and put someone on a stretcher," said one witness Paul Selsky.

Rescuers say along with Kidd, they found three others buried in the avalanche. One had a leg injury, but all three were treated and released.

Dee Byrne, President and CEO of Palisades Tahoe Resort choked up with emotion during an afternoon news conference.

"This is a very sad day for my team and everyone here," Byrne said.

Video from the resort's Instagram account shows crews as they had prepared the resort for skiers before Wednesday's avalanche.

"For the past few days they’ve been up there doing control work, evaluating weather conditions, setting up all the safety hazards and markings to get it prepared," said Michael Gross, with the Palisades Tahoe Mountain Operations Team.

It was a shock for many Bay Area skiers preparing to head up for the holiday weekend.

"I know it's the first big snow of the season, so hopefully they're taking the necessary precautions and making sure everything's safe and it doesn't happen again. Super tragic. And hope they get it corrected," said Stephen Hadinger who was picking up ski gear at the Berkeley Sports Basement to head out to the Sierra.

"Avalanches are extremely rare, but they do happen," said Ski California's president Michael Reitzell.

Reitzell says Sierra resorts have strict avalanche protocols, using tools such as explosives to try and prevent avalanches from occurring.

"It is specific to each resort, from the various terrain to the weather patterns that happen at each resort, so each one has its own specific plan," said Reitzell.