Community reacts to deadly avalanche at Alpine Meadows Alpine Meadows Ski Resort

ALPINE MEADOWS, Calif. (KGO) -- In the Sierra during winter, nothing beats the lure and the thrill of gravity combined with snow.

But as skiers geared up for a perfect winter day at Alpine Meadows, few of them had short memories.

"A lot of sadness and shock. But skiers understand there is a risk when you ski."

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The reality of that risk was driven home Friday after an avalanche high above. Rescuers responded immediately, but the radio call wasn't in time to save 34-year-old Cole Comstock, who died on the mountain.

A second skier went to the hospital with severe lower-body injuries.

The two skiers were friends, together, in bounds and presumably safe. But Alpine Meadows does have a history of avalanches.

Alpine Meadows closed off the area where the avalanche occurred, and reopened it reopened for skiing and riding Saturday evening. You can find more information about lift and terrain status on their website.

In March 1982, an avalanche there killed seven people and left one woman buried alive for five days. Alpine has more avalanches than any ski resort in the United States, and has an aggressive program to maintain the safety of these slopes.

Good skiers always keep the possibility of avalanches in the backs of their minds.

"Yeah, you're always thinking about where to ski. If a slide happens, where is your refuge?" said Matt Stewart from Belmont.

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When he hits the steep slopes, he says he carries a shovel, a long probe, and most important, an electronic avalanche beacon.

"So if I'm skiing with someone then we both turn on and send a signal and they receive a signal shows the location they are buried."

However, that is no guarantee for survival.

"My wife saw it happen. She was on the chair heading up and heard a lot of screaming..."

Dave Benaron is also an emergency room physician who treats skiing injuries every day.

What happens to a person in an avalanche?

"Depends. In this situation, the gentleman was swept into the trees and that is what killed him," Doctor Benaron said. "That is more common. They are swept into things and die of trauma..."

The downside of snow and gravity on an otherwise perfect day.
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