Mares wore a POV camera when he set off the avalanche in the footage above.
On Friday, January 15, snowboarder Christian Mares ventured out of bounds at Sugar Bowl Resort and took an unexpected ride down the mountain amidst avalanche debris. In a rare turn of events, he will be prosecuted under California Penal Code 602(r) for trespassing in the “Perco’s” section of the East Palisades, an area that hasn’t been open since the 2010/11 season. Mares sent it off a rock, landed in pow, and set off a relatively large avalanche. He got lucky to end up on top, to say the least, especially considering how deep it’s been out there lately.
Most people probably don’t check avalanche conditions before riding inbounds, but conditions were reported as “considerable” last Friday. If Mares checked the Sierra Avalanche Center’s report before strapping in that day, he would have read, “Large human triggered avalanches are likely and natural avalanches are possible. Unusual avalanche conditions exist. Avalanches on steeper slopes could be remotely triggered by a person standing in lower angle terrain or may be triggered in places traditionally considered safe. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route finding and conservative decision making are essential.”
A January 18 press release from Sugar Bowl Resort on Donner Pass near North Lake Tahoe stated, “Normally, when skiers or riders choose to enter into a closed area, resort management will pull the skier’s pass for a duration of time, ban the skier for the remainder of the season or, if serious enough, for multiple seasons. However, since Mares is not a Sugar Bowl season passholder and given the magnitude and severity of this situation, and the fact that patrol, staff and public were put at serious risk from Mares’ decisions and actions, Sugar Bowl has now turned this incident over to the Placer County Sheriff’s Department for prosecution under California Penal Code 602(r), which refers to trespassing into a closed area of a ski resort.
John Monson, director of sales and marketing for Sugar Bowl Resort, said over the phone that there was a fickle snowpack over Martin Luther King Day Weekend with a pretty gnarly surface hoar beneath the fresh load of snow. He also said the slide area was obviously closed.
“We don’t rope that area, we sign that area. It’s signage that they went past,” Monson said. “We place the highest regard for safety of the public, so when anyone crosses over into closed terrain…that puts the safety of patrol, our staff, and the skiing public in the vicinity at risk.”
Placer County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Dave Hunt told TransWorld Snowboarding that Mares’ penalty would be up to the district attorney’s office. “It would probably be monetary but could go all the way up to jail time,” he explained. “Once our investigation is complete we will forward the report to the district attorney’s office and make recommendations, and he would be the one to go forward with the charges.”
Visit sierraavalanchecenter.org to check avalanche conditions in the Eastern Sierra.
Update 1/22/16: TransWorld Snowboarding has reached out to Mares to get his side of the story but he has not responded.