Tahoe ski patroller dies during avalanche control activities

Posted at 2:38 PM, Jan 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-25 16:38:13-05

By Madison Park

SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) — A ski patroller died in an explosion while taking part in avalanche control duties Tuesday morning at a Tahoe resort.

Joe Zuiches, 42, had been working before opening hours at the Squaw Valley resort and was killed after the detonation of an explosive charge, according to the company, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows.

Ski patrol at most resorts perform avalanche control activities using explosives in the morning before opening the slopes to visitors. These procedures aim to prevent avalanches while guests are at the resort.

The Placer County Sheriff’s Office and North Tahoe Fire Department are investigating the death.

“Most of the hand charges are relatively safe,” said Lt. Fred Guitron of the Placer County Sheriff’s Office. “They’re being used all over ski resorts all over the United States. So it is unique to have something like this happen.”

Zuiches, of Truckee, Calif., had been a member of the Squaw Valley professional ski patrol since 2012. He had a wife and infant son, according to the company.

Andy Wirth, president of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, said Zuiches was highly trained and the “best of the best folks that run avalanche control.”

“The whole team at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is deeply saddened by this tragic loss. We’re a family, and this impacts everyone on our team,” he said.

The resort is expected to re-open Wednesday.

The company on its website thanked its mountain operations team for “working through this storm cycle that provided over 23 feet of snow in 23 days.”

CNN’s Cheri Mossburg, Augie Martin and Melanie Whitely contributed to this report.