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Christmas Eve avalanches leave two dead in Lake Tahoe area

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A 49-year-old snowboarder and a veteran ski patroller were killed in separate avalanches in the Lake Tahoe area on the day before Christmas, authorities said.

Steven Mark Anderson, 49, of Hirschdale, Calif., an unincorporated community outside Truckee, was reported missing at noon PST Monday at Donner Ski Ranch. A search dog found his body about 1:30 p.m. under 2 to 3 feet of snow at the base of an avalanche within the ski area boundaries near the main lodge.

He had been snowboarding with friends, but they had separated before the avalanche, Nevada County Sheriff's Deputy David Lade said, according to a report by The Associated Press.

Also Monday morning, Bill Foster, 53, was buried when a fellow ski patrol worker intentionally set off a slide with an explosive device during avalanche control work at Alpine Meadows, the resort said in a statement.

Foster, who was a ski patroller for 28 years, was uncovered within eight minutes and efforts were made to resuscitate him, but he died later at a hospital, Reuters reported.

The area was within boundaries in Sherwood Bowl but it was closed to the public at the time. The avalanche broke "much higher and wider on the slope than previously observed in past snow safety missions," the resort said.

Holiday travelers stranded as snow and wild weather heads east

Tahoe-area ski resorts received at least 3 feet of snow in a wind-whipped series of storms from Friday through Sunday, leading to perilous conditions even within ski area boundaries. 

On Sunday, two skiers at Squaw Valley — a 39-year-old woman and 16-year-old boy — were treated for non-life threatening injuries after they were swept up in an avalanche, although neither was buried.

"With the extremely heavy snowfall we've gotten over the last three days and the conditions prior to that, it's prime avalanche conditions," Lade said.

The Weather Channel's David Malkoff reports from Fishers, Ind., where snow and wind are expected to increase over the next few hours, with record-breaking snow possible for much of the Midwest.

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