1 skier still missing after deadly avalanche at Idaho resort

(Kathy Plonka | The Spokesman-Review | AP file photo) In this Feb. 25, 2013 file photo, a skier takes advantage of the snowy conditions at Silver Mountain in Kellogg, Idaho. The Shoshone County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, it received reports of up to three separate avalanches on the mountain and that emergency responders were coordinating rescue efforts.

Kellogg, Idaho • One skier remains missing at an Idaho resort where an avalanche on Tuesday killed two skiers and injured four others.

The Silver Mountain Resort was closed Wednesday "to focus all available resources on the search,'' the resort said on Facebook.

The resort said it received a telephone call Wednesday morning from a concerned family member of the missing skier who was confirmed to be skiing there at the time of the avalanche. Resort officials said Wednesday afternoon that an intense search with dogs did not find the missing person.

An avalanche happened at about 11 a.m. Tuesday on Wardner Peak, an area of the resort where the ski runs are rated at the highest difficulty level, according to resort officials.

The runs had just been opened for a short period after crews performed avalanche control blasting in the area Tuesday morning, using explosives to trigger avalanches in hopes of leaving only the stable snow layers on the runs, officials said.

Rescue crews and volunteers searched the avalanche area Tuesday with dogs and probes. The resort previously said five people had been recovered with minor injuries but said Wednesday afternoon that there were four people.

Another skier was discovered Tuesday under about 10 feet (3 meters) of snow and did not survive. Yet another was found after dark. He was taken to a local hospital and pronounced dead. Experts say most avalanche survivors are dug out within 30 minutes.

Names of the victims have not been released.

Silver Mountain Resort is located about 60 miles east of Spokane, Washington, along Interstate 90 in the Idaho Panhandle.

Skiers flocked to the area Tuesday after reports of more than a foot of new snow. The snow was heavy and wet, causing some skiers to worry about avalanche conditions, the Spokesman-Review newspaper reported.

"I thought conditions were kind of sketchy,'' Bruce Rosenoff, 72, told the newspaper. He remembered an avalanche on the same peak in 1980.

Wardner Peak had been open less than an hour when the avalanche happened, resort officials said. It had been closed until Tuesday due to lack of snow. Normal avalanche control work was completed in the morning before operations, resort officials said.

The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center will investigate the cause of the avalanche. The Wardner Peak area will be closed until further notice.

Wardner Peak, which has runs rated most difficult and expert, is accessible from one of the resort chairlifts by traversing or hiking and is patrolled and managed by the resort.

During the 2018-19 winter, 25 people died in avalanches in the United States, the newspaper reported.