Glider makes emergency landing on ski slope
Editor’s note: This story corrects the spelling of the pilot’s name and the number of passengers aboard the aircraft.
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – A glider was forced to make an emergency landing on First Ride ski run at Heavenly Mountain Resort Sunday afternoon. No injuries were reported.
The SoaringNV aircraft encountered unexpected downdraft and had to land near the California base, said Laurie Harden, a spokeswoman for the company.
“Sometimes right against some lift, you can have some sink,” Harden said.
Officials at Heavenly are not happy about the emergency landing, said spokesman Russ Pecoraro.
“We’re pretty dissappointed something like this could happen at all,” Pecoraro said. “We think it’s the result of some pretty irresponsible behavior on behalf of this company.”
The resort is exploring its options, but litigation will likely not be one of them, Pecoraro said.
The choice to land on the ski run was made by pilot Jeffrey Hazelgrove after realizing the glider was too low to make it to Lake Tahoe Airport or the Bijou Golf Course, Harden said. In addition to Hazlegrove, one passenger was aboard the craft.
The pilot chose the ski run, rather than crash-land in the trees, because there were few people on the strip of snow and he deemed it the safest place, Harden said.
“Had the slope had people on it, he would’ve put that glider in the trees,” she said.
Hazlegrove has more than 12,000 glider flights and decades of experience, Harden said.
Though the run had few if any people on it, there’s still numerous obstacles in that path, including the tram tower, the lodge building and numerous hanging cables, Pecoraro said. And the childrens’ ski school is nearby, he added.
“It could’ve ended really badly,” he said.
The glider launched from Minden-Tahoe Airport. It was removed from the Heavenly ski slope Sunday.
No investigation is underway by the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, Lt. Les Lovell said Monday.
“There was no ill intent,” Lovell said. “I guess he did the best he could to pick a spot that was as unpopulated as possible.”