An ambulance waits near the Mogul Clinic in Taos Ski Valley to transport skiers injured today in an avalanche near Kachina Peak at Taos Ski Valley. Photo by Yvonne Pesquera/The Taos News
By JOHN MILLER
Updated Jan. 17 at 4:35 p.m.
Two skiers were critically injured in an avalanche today near Kachina Peak, the highest point at Taos Ski Valley.
According to a press release from the resort, an “inbounds avalanche” occurred in chute three just before noon, burying and injuring two men who have not yet been identified.
Rescuers searching the base of the chute extracted the men just before 1 p.m. and performed CPR on them before rushing them to a clinic at the base of the resort.
According to a report heard on Taos Central Dispatch before 3 p.m., a medic transporting one of the men in an ambulance to Holy Cross Hospital in Taos said she had “one male trauma patient”, for whom she had established an IV and an intubator, a medical device that helps a person breath when they are unconscious.
Taos County Emergency Services Chief Chris Medina said the other man was also in critical condition and was flown by helicopter to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.
The search for others who might have been buried was called off after 2 p.m., with rescuers determining there to be “no additional victims”, according to the resort’s press release.
During the search, dozens of rescuers used avalanche probes, shovels and the help of search-and-rescue dogs to search the area under the peak for anyone else who might have been swept under in the slide.
According to Taos News photographer Morgan Timms, who was at the scene of the accident today, the snow from the avalanche was so deep that the probes, which were 30-feet long, could not reach the bottom of the snowpack.
A woman at the site of the avalanche who spoke with Timms on the condition of anonymity said she could see – and hear – the moment the snow collapsed.
“I see two people trying to come down and a third person on the left. They were really good skiers it looked like,” she said and then directed Timms attention to a point near the top of the steep run. “I turned my back to put my bindings on … and then I heard a sound. It sounded like an earthquake coming.”
The witness said a cloud of snow rushed down the run, but she couldn’t see how many people were buried once it settled.
Medics of Taos Volunteer Fire Department also responded to the ski resort today to provide assistance in the rescue.
This is a developing story.
Photographer Morgan Timms and Cody Hooks contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: The Taos News shared this story and the photos with the Los Alamos Daily Post.
Rescuers form lines to probe for people buried in an avalanche today at the bottom of Kachina Peak at Taos Ski Valley. By 12:40 p.m. they had pulled out two skiers, both men, whose condition was still unknown by mid-afternoon. Photo by Morgan Timms/The Taos News