PLACER COUNTY (CBS13) – A skier who was killed after an avalanche in the Tahoe National Forest on Thursday afternoon has died doing what he loved, friends said.
The Nevada County Coroner on Friday identified the man as 29-year-old Benjamin Brackett of Olympic Valley.
The incident occurred 500 vertical feet below Stanford Rock off Highway 89 near the backside of Alpine Meadows in the Ward Valley area of Placer County. Brackett was transported to Tahoe Forest Hospital in Truckee in critical condition and later pronounced dead.
Friends said Brackett was a fearless skier who died while pursuing his passion.
“He was a really good guy, and a lot of fun to ski with, a lot of fun to hang out with,” Adam Baillargeon told CBS13 on Friday. “Eyes that lit up the room.”
Brackett reportedly suffered a broken leg but the cause of his death wasn’t immediately available. Paramedics reportedly were performing CPR on him before arriving at the hospital.
The Sierra Avalanche Center, which has a detailed account of the fatal avalanche on their website, says Brackett first triggered a slab avalanche about one foot deep when he began skiing down the mountain.
It says he was able to stop himself from being taken down the slope by grabbing a tree. However, the avalanche then grew deeper, sweeping him down the slope and burying him.
According to the report: “His partners skied down, saw a ski protruding from the snowpack, and used their beacons to locate the buried skier. The avalanche buried the skier about three feet deep and wrapped him around some trees. It took them about 3 minutes to get to their buried partner.”
Deputies were notified of the incident at 2:50 p.m. At 3 p.m., rescuers from the Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue team equipped with a Snowcat and two snowmobiles began their search for Brackett.
An official with Squaw Valley says Brackett has worked at the resort since 2008 in their food and beverage department.
“I did not know Ben personally but what I understand from my co-workers is he was just one of those people who always had a smile on his face, always really cheerful,” said Julie Maurer of Squaw Valley. “I know that our guests loved him. We always had lots of great comments from the guests about him.”
Brackett was originally from Keene, New Hampshire.
“He’ll never be forgotten. I’m going to ski with him every day,” Baillargeon said.