Search Continues for Skier Buried in Avalanche

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Heavy snow hampered authorities Sunday in their search for a cross-country skier buried in an avalanche north of Lake Tahoe.

On Tahoe's south shore, a cell phone was credited for saving the life of a snowboarder trapped in an avalanche near the Heavenly ski resort.

Nevada County sheriff's deputies said the search for the missing skier was complicated by 2-3 feet of new snow since Thursday's avalanche in a remote, rugged area west of Truckee and north of Donner Summit.

Searchers were having difficulty finding the avalanche's precise path because of all the snow, deputies said.

Experts said avalanche victims have only a remote chance of surviving if found just 30 minutes later.

"It's not a search for a live person. I would just think it's recovery of a body," said Doug Read of the Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue Team.

Deputies said the missing skier was from Pacific Grove, but didn't release his name or other details about him.

A companion escaped without injury, but could not call authorities until Saturday afternoon because a blizzard and heavy snow prevented him from getting out of the backcountry.

Deputies said the companion spent two nights at a backcountry hut near Castle Peak. He was provided a cell phone by another group of skiers to call for help.

Searchers used snowmobiles to get to the avalanche about three miles north of Interstate 80 in the Tahoe National Forest.

To the south, snowboarder Steven Peck, 30, of South Lake Tahoe, was rescued at 10 p.m. Saturday, about five hours after being trapped in an avalanche near Heavenly.

Peck had been snowboarding in an out-of-bounds area of the resort when he was swept down a chute by an avalanche, said Shaun Thomas, operations leader of the Douglas County, Nev., Search and Rescue Team.

He used his cell phone to call 911, and a search began a short time later. He was found unharmed in 5 feet of snow.

Peck faces a $635 fine for boarding out of bounds, Thomas told the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

Read said the avalanches are a reminder of the backcountry's potential danger after heavy snow.

"People are in areas where they shouldn't be," he said. "During and right after a major storm you have to be very careful."

A U.S. Forest Service avalanche advisory remains in effect in the Sierra backcountry above 6,000 feet between Sonora and Yuba passes.

In separate searches, two groups of skiers and snowboarders were found Saturday morning after spending a frigid night in the Sierra.