Above average Sierra snowpack for the month of February continues, with California at 190% of normal snowpack for this time of year. With all this snow, the ski patrol team at Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe is urging skiers to be extremely cautious of avalanche danger.

In 2023, the Sierra Avalanche Center has reported two avalanches where a person was either caught, buried, or injured in an avalanche. One of the two incidents took place outside the ski area boundary at Heavenly. Avalanches that take place inbounds are rare.

Ryan McPartland is the Ski Patrol Assistant Director at Heavenly Ski Resort. He has been on the ski patrol team for 25 seasons. For the last seven years, he’s had Yuba, his seven year old rescue dog by his side. Before that, McPartland also raised Yuba’s dad.

The legacy of patrol pups is nothing knew for the resort, which started the Heavenly Avalanche Rescue Dog or HARD team back in the late 1980’s. Today, Yuba is one of seven rescue dogs at Heavenly.

Avalanche dogs can search up to two football fields in 30 minutes, while it might take a human about 4 hours to conduct the same search. Making the role of an avalanche dog at a big resort like Heavenly that much more invaluable. McPartland explained,

People get excited by the above average Sierra snowpack, and they should. But they also need to know the risks.

The risk of an avalanche go up significantly once you exit the ski area boundary. McPartland warns. There is no ski patrol there to help you, so it’s very important that you have the training that you’re exposing yourself to a higher level of risk — and you know how to deal with it.

If you do decide to leave the ski area boundary, and ski in the backcountry, there are three things you are going to need:

  • An avalanche transceiver
  • An avalanche probe
  • A shovel

An avalanche transceiver can locate you from an isolated location underneath the snow. The avalanche probe will help with finding how deep under the snow you are, and the shovel that allows the rescuer to chop the snow up, and find you.

Above average Sierra snowpack prompts avalanche awareness
Above average Sierra snowpack prompts avalanche awareness

Leave a Reply

We welcome comments, no login or approval is required and all fields are optional. You should see your comment immediately, if you do not the automatic spam filter may be holding it for approval. It should be approved or denied within 24 hours in most cases. While we have no approval process we will delete comments that violate our policy which can find via the link on the horizontal menu at the top of the page.


Please share!