LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The conditions in Mount Charleston at the moment are not ideal for anyone looking to do any outdoor activities, especially on trails that do not see much traffic. Similar conditions were seen yesterday when a backcountry avalanche took the life of a skier.
On Monday, five people were backcountry skiing on the Mummy Trail in Mount Charleston when one was caught in a backcountry avalanche.
The Clark County Coroner identified 32-year-old, Punan Zhou as the skier and his death was determined to be an accident due to blunt force trauma.
“This tragedy is a reminder of the conditions that can occur in the backcountry of Mount Charleston,” Sgt. Matthew Marlow with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s Search and Rescue said.
Marlow said Zhou was in a group of five skiers who were at the 11,000-foot level of the Mummy Spring Trail when an avalanche happened. The skiers were all equipped with locater beacons and that is how Zhou’s friends found him in the snow.
“Mr. Zhou’s friends were able to locate him by his personal beacon, these types of beacons are common in the use by backcountry skiers,” Marlow said.
According to Marlow, first responders performed CPR on Zhou for 30 minutes but were unsuccessful.
Jonathan Stein, the recreation manager for the Spring Mountains, said that avalanches are rare in Southern Nevada, but do happen.
“We have had colder storms pass through the last few weeks that have dropped snowfall. Within that we have had lighter, less moisture content snow we did have a period of time where it was very cold with now snowfall that can contribute to weak layers,” Stein said.
Stein also said the area where Zhou and the other skiers were was not closed off.
“It definitely makes me a little nervous,” hiker, Katie Schwartz said. “We always check the conditions first, we never commit to going out we try to stay warm. I try to wear ice cleats on my shoes so I don’t trip and fall.”
The U.S. Forest Service said it will call in national experts to investigate this avalanche.
Personal beacon locators are highly encouraged for hikers and skiers, as well as probes because they are used to find people buried by an avalanche. If you are going into a risky spot, learn how to spot some of the warning signs of avalanches in the terrain.