Unknown skier triggered deadly January avalanche

Federal officials reviewed TSV documents, staff for five-page report on tragedy

By Cody Hooks
chooks@taosnews.com
Posted 7/18/19

It was a skier who unintentionally triggered the avalanche in Taos Ski Valley in January that resulted in the deaths of two young men, according to a Forest Service …

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Unknown skier triggered deadly January avalanche

Federal officials reviewed TSV documents, staff for five-page report on tragedy

Posted

It was a skier who unintentionally triggered the avalanche in Taos Ski Valley in January that resulted in the deaths of two young men, according to a Forest Service report obtained by the Taos News Tuesday (July 16).

The avalanche occurred at approximately 11:34 a.m. on Jan. 17 in the K3 chute of Kachina Peak. Matthew Zonghetti, 26, of Massachusetts, and Corey Borg-Massanari, 22, of Colorado, were transported to hospitals and died from avalanche-related injuries.

Adam LaDell, winter sports coordinator for the Carson National Forest, headed the review; he and a team of local and regional Forest Service personnel visited the accident scene, participated in meetings and interviews with TSV staff and reviewed a number of reports, statements and logs from TSV.

The report does not indicate if Zonghetti, Borg-Massanari or a different skier triggered the avalanche.

"That was not part of my investigation," LaDell told the Taos News. "That is a question for TSV to answer."

Taos Ski Valley CEO Dave Nordon and TSV Vice President Chris Stagg did not respond to questions about the identity of the skier who caused the avalanche before press time Wednesday afternoon (July 17).

The review found that Taos Ski Valley Inc., which operates the ski area on Forest Service land, was in compliance with its special use permit and its operating plan.

The TSV Ski Patrol responded to the scene of the avalanche and led a search and rescue effort, with dozens of skiers joining in the probe search. Zonghetti and Borg-Massanari were found about seven to eight feet under the snow, and about 50 feet from each other.

The report found that the avalanche, which produced a debris field approximately 300 feet long by 150 feet wide, to be of moderate size and destructive force.

The five-page report was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. However, it is partially based on documents that "are on file at Taos Ski Valley Inc. offices." As a private corporation, the ski valley is not required to provide documents under FOIA, and ski valley officials had not responded to a Taos News request to review those documents as of press time.

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