NEAR ALPINE MEADOWS, CA - A 29-year-old man who was rescued after an avalanche died at the hospital Thursday night.
The man was identified on Friday morning by the Nevada County coroner as Benjamin Brackett of Olympic Valley, California.
Three skiers were caught in an avalanche Thursday afternoon just south of the Alpine Meadows Ski Resort. Brackett was caught by the wave of snow and slammed against a tree where he was partly buried by snow.
"There were three guys and one was caught in the slide right from the git-go, quite a ways, probably 300 feet down," said Doug Read, a skier with the Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue team.
"The slide had gone at least another 500 feet below that through a pretty thick forest and it was very unstable," said Read.
Placer County sheriff's spokeswoman Dena Erwin said the incident occurred in rugged terrain atop Ward Valley off Highway 89. Rescuers were told Brackett was going up to the top of a hill known as Stanford Rock when he was caught in the snowslide. Another skier stayed with Brackett while a third left for help, with a call coming in to the Placer County Sheriff's Department at about 2:10 Thursday afternoon.
Team members went in on a snow-cat about a half-mile, then had to hike in another half mile to find Brackett.
"We had to unwrap him from around some trees and stuff and dig him out a bit more. So it wasn't too pleasant," said Read. "He was conscious to a degree and so we just kept verbalizing with him. Yelling at him while we moved him."
Sheriff's Lt. John Weaver said Brackett appeared to have a fractured leg.
A North Tahoe Fire District ambulance took Brackett to Tahoe Forest Hospital in Truckee in critical condition.
There have been back-country avalanche warnings in place since the last storm swept in to the northern Sierra earlier in the week.
Read acknowledged the dangerous conditions, adding, "When you're in the mountains, you gotta be careful."
Brackett's co-workers at Squaw Valley released this statement:
Ben Brackett was a valued member of Squaw's culinary team since 2008 who had a smile and a friendly word for all his co-workers and our guests. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends. He will be truly missed by his friends, family and team members here at Squaw.