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Lee Canyon remains closed after avalanche

Updated February 5, 2024 - 9:25 pm

An avalanche at Lee Canyon on Monday sent a police search and rescue team to the ski area outside Las Vegas after initial reports of people missing.

Ultimately, the avalanche left no one missing, said Jim Seely, Lee Canyon’s marketing and sales director.

Lee Canyon, which has seen about 1 to 2 feet of snow in the past two days, will be closed on Tuesday and possibly Wednesday. Anybody who had bought lift tickets will be refunded, said an emailed statement from Seely.

The roads from Las Vegas to Lee Canyon as well as Mount Charleston on Monday had been closed at U.S. Highway 95, the Nevada Department of Transportation said in posts on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

State Route 157, also known as Kyle Canyon Road, was only open to residents of the mountain communities, while State Route 156, also known as Lee Canyon Road, had been closed to everybody, NDOT posted on X just after 5 p.m. Monday.

Justin Hopkins, an NDOT spokesperson, said in text messages Monday night that state Route 156 had been reopened to all, but that tire chains or snow tires were required, and that state Route 157 had also been reopened to all.

With heavy snow falling on the Spring Mountains, which includes Lee Canyon and Mount Charleston, the avalanche happened at about 1:20 p.m. at the Lee Canyon ski area, Seely’s statement said.

“So far over the last 48 hours, it’s been one to two feet of new snow,” Samuel Meltzer, a meteorologist with the Las Vegas forecast office of the National Weather Service, said of the amount of snow that had fallen on Lee Canyon.

Meltzer said another 1 to 2 feet of snow could fall on Lee Canyon through Tuesday evening.

“It’s above normal,” he said of the snow amounts.

Photos and social media posts from Lee Canyon and Mount Charleston on Monday showed those areas completely blanketed by at least a foot of thick snow.

After the avalanche, Seely said Lee Canyon’s ski patrol and mountain operations teams immediately started searching and found one person who needed assistance. That person, who was skiing with another person, was released after being treated at the scene.

Everyone was accounted for. Initial reports of people missing in the avalanche had been unsubstantiated, Seely said.

The Metropolitan Police Department had posted on X on Monday afternoon that four people initially reported as missing had been accounted for and were safe.

“An on-mountain search and a parking lot sweep have been conducted, and currently, everyone is accounted for — there are no active reports of people missing,” Seely’s statement said.

The avalanche happened in the ski area above the Sherwood chairlift and affected the Black Jack, High Roller and Keno trails.

“The Sherwood lift was immediately stopped, and the resort suspended all operations and ski patrol was dispatched. Guests were asked to leave the resort,” the statement said.

As a precaution, employees and visitors “performed a probe line over the affected areas,” which consisted of a line of people walking in an effort to search for anybody who might have been missing, even though there were no reports of anyone else missing, Seely’s statement said.

In addition to Metro’s search teams, as well as teams from Lee Canyon, crews with Mount Charleston Fire and Rescue and the Clark County Fire Departments responded to the scene.

Lee Canyon is part of an area under a winter storm warning through Tuesday. One to 3 feet of snow is expected to fall on the Spring Mountains as well as the Sheep Range during the storm warning period, according to the National Weather Service.

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com. Contact Taylor Lane at tlane@reviewjournal.com

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