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2 Killed, 5 Injured In Avalanche At Idaho Ski Resort

Two skiers were killed in an avalanche at Idaho's Silver Mountain Resort on Tuesday.
Hank Lunsford via Spokane Public Radio
Two skiers were killed in an avalanche at Idaho's Silver Mountain Resort on Tuesday.

Two people were killed and five were injured in an avalanche at an Idaho ski resort on Tuesday.

The avalanche occurred at about 11 a.m. local time at the Silver Mountain Resort in the Idaho Panhandle town of Kellogg. The Shoshone County Sheriff's Office confirmedthe casualties.

Silver Mountain said its ski patrol and other volunteers responded as soon as they were alerted to the avalanche and began probing the snow for bodies.

Earlier, authorities had said that one person had been killed. The second fatality was found late in the day. The victims' names have not been released.

The mountain is closed on Wednesday, and the resort says it believes that all skiers have now been accounted for. "Thank you for your patience and understanding as we process yesterday's events," the resort postedon Facebook, expressing condolences to those affected.

"The slide follows wet, heavy snowfall over the past couple of days, which is also keeping avalanche danger high in the backcountry," Montana Public Radio's Aaron Bolton reported. "The resort reported 26 inches of snowfall in the past couple of days, much of it wet and heavy."

Avalanche fatalities are rare in-bounds at U.S. ski resorts. (Most skiing fatalities at resorts are due to collisions.) The avalanche occurred on Silver Mountain's Wardner Peak, an area of expert terrain that is accessed by traversing by ski or foot after exiting a chairlift.

The Spokane Spokesman-Review reportedthat the peak had been open less than an hour when the avalanche happened.

"I thought conditions were kind of sketchy," mountain regular Bruce Rosenoff, 72, told the newspaper. "New snow on a hard base."

That combination can be very unstable. The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center warnsthat the area continues to be in high avalanche danger, which means a high likelihood of both natural and human-triggered slides.

The Shoshone News-Press reportsthat the resort had just completed avalanche blasting in the area before the peak opened. Such blasts purposely trigger small avalanches to prevent uncontrolled avalanches that could endanger people.

Two men died in Montana last week when they were buried under an avalanche while snowmobiling.

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Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.