Snowmobiler Dead After Cornice Break/Cliff Fall/Avalanche Near Lake Tahoe, CA Yesterday

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Photo of cornice fall/avalanche at Frog Lake, CA. image: sierra avalanche center

A snowmobiler died after falling off a cornice break/cliff fall/avalanche at Frog Lake just north of Donner Pass near Lake Tahoe, CA yesterday, March 20, 2021.

We are getting conflicting reports from The Sierra Avalanche Center and the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office with one saying it was a cliff fall and the other saying it was a cornice break/fall/avalanche.

The Sierra Avalanche Center has provided details below.

The Nevada County Sheriff’s Office press release at bottom of this article.

Photo of cornice fall/avalanche at Frog Lake, CA. image: sierra avalanche center

Sierra Avalanche Center Report:

A fatal accident occurred near Frog Lake Cliffs today, March 20, 2021. Our thoughts, condolences, and sympathy are with all those affected by this tragedy. Our thanks also go out to those who helped with the recovery effort. This incident represents a sobering reminder of the risks that exist in the mountains. What we know so far is summarized below. We will go out to the area tomorrow and gather more information.

A group of three people snowmobiled to the top of Frog Lake Cliffs. The weather made visibility difficult and the light was very flat, making it hard to see the edge of the ridge. One of them stepped off their sled not realizing how close they were to the overhanging cornice on the edge of the ridge. They took a few steps towards the edge and a large (~40 ft) section of cornice broke underneath them. They fell onto the slope below with the large cornice pieces and triggered a wind slab avalanche on that slope. This avalanche was about 100 ft wide. The large cornice pieces and the avalanche swept the person down the slope over cliffs and through rocks and chutes. The avalanche debris was about 15 ft deep in places and about 100 ft wide. The avalanche size was about D2.5, R3.

The person came to rest about 900 vertical feet below the cornice. They were found on the surface (not buried) with traumatic injuries incompatible with life. Another party who witnessed the event from below initiated CPR before rescue crews arrived but the victim did not survive.

Rescue teams responded to the scene and used a helicopter to evacuate the body. The recovery effort was accomplished with cooperation from agencies including Nevada County SAR, Tahoe Nordic SAR, Placer County Avalanche Dog Team, NAS Fallon/US Navy, and Tahoe Donner XC.

Where the victim was found. Photo of cornice fall/avalanche at Frog Lake, CA. image: sierra avalanche center
Map showing location of Frog Lake, CA where the accident occured.

Nevada County Sheriff’s Office Press Release:

At approximately 1:45 PM on March 20, 2021 the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office received a report of an avalanche involving 3 subjects in the area of Frog Lake in Nevada County. As the incident progressed, we were advised 2 subjects were located unharmed however the third subject was injured. We also learned initial reports of an avalanche were incorrect and it was actually a fall which caused the injuries. Members of the Nevada County Sheriff’s Search & Rescue, CALFIRE, Placer County Nordic Rescue, and the United States Navy out of Fallon, Nevada responded. CPR was attempted however the subject succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at the scene. The subject, a male adult, was airlifted from the scene by a Navy helicopter and taken to Renown Hospital. The subject’s name is being withheld pending notification of family members.


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