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United States

Avalanche kills skier, injures another in New Mexico’s Taos Ski Valley

  • Former governor Gary Johnson was among about 100 skiers probing the snow with poles for about 45 minutes before the two men were found
PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 January, 2019, 11:43am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 January, 2019, 11:43am

One skier died and another was in critical condition on Thursday after they were caught in an avalanche at Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico, hospital employees said.

The two men were skiing down a chute off Kachina Peak, a 3,804-metre (12,481-foot) mountain at the resort about 210km (130 miles) north of Albuquerque, when they were caught in the avalanche at around 11:45am, said Taos Ski Valley spokesman Chris Stagg.

The ski patrol and other skiers dug the two men out of the avalanche and they were rushed to hospital, the ski resort said on Facebook, adding that “there are no additional people involved”.

The first skier was taken to Holy Cross Hospital in Taos, New Mexico, where he died of his injuries, according to a hospital employee, who asked not to be named as he was not authorised to speak with the press.

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Holy Cross Hospital spokeswoman Renee Laughlin declined to comment.

The other skier was airlifted to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque and was in critical condition, said hospital spokesman Mark Rudi.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the two individuals who were affected by today’s event and their families,” Taos Ski Valley said on its Facebook page.

Former New Mexico Governor and US presidential candidate Gary Johnson said he was among dozens of skiers who probed the snow with 3-metre poles for about 45 minutes before the two men were found.

“At least 100 people were doing what I was doing,” said Johnson, who lives in the Taos area, and regularly skis at the resort. “Those guys could have been any one of us.”

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Johnson and other rescuers spent hours after the two were found checking for other people feared to have been caught in the slide.

The resort’s ski patrol had on Thursday morning used explosive devices in the area to reduce the threat of avalanches, Stagg said.

The rocky “K3” chute the two men were skiing down is among the most challenging terrain at the ski resort known for its steep runs. It is accessed from a lift to the top of Kachina Peak. The lift was opened for the first time this season on Tuesday after more than 40cm of snow fell in the last week.

“It’s very steep and challenging terrain,” said Stagg. “You like to think it’s always safe, but sometimes there are pockets of snow that can avalanche.”