NORDEN, CA - A friend of a Truckee man who was killed in an avalanche at the Donner Ski Ranch Monday morning said the resort's response to the avalanche was questionable.
Mike Waggoner said he spoke with of 49-year-old Steve Anderson him just that morning. Waggoner was on one of the chairlifts when the avalanche broke.
"I had just gotten on chair one, and was proceeding up the hill when I heard the roar and I looked up and saw a big plume of snow smoke being pushed by the avalanche," Waggoner recalled.
However, despite the avalanche, Waggoner said operations continued as normal. It took a little while before anyone realized Anderson was missing.
"A half hour, forty minutes after the event happened, mutual friends started to ask, 'have you seen Steve? Where's Steve?'" Waggoner said.
"A group of us confronted the Ski Patrol with the information that our friend is missing, but Ski Patrol assured us that everything was under control, that they had searched the area and there was nothing to worry about," Waggoner added.
But Waggoner himself didn't see any search attempts and wondered why no one bothered to take a head count to make sure no one was in trouble. Finally, he called the sheriff's office.
"Within minutes, Sugarbowl Search and Rescue with their dogs were on the scene," Waggoner said. "They shut down operations and commenced a search and unfortunately it ended up being a body recovery."
Waggoner said he is not trying to point fingers at anyone, but hopes policies and procedures will be looked at and maybe in the future such incidents would be handled differently.
For its part, Donner Ski Ranch declined an interview request but did release a statement:
"We would like to express our deepest sympathy to the victim and his family. Due to an ongoing investigation, Donner Ski Ranch cannot release information at this time."
By Jonathan Mumm, firstname.lastname@example.org