Truckee woman dies in avalanche |

Truckee woman dies in avalanche

An avalanche buried eight skiers on a remote mountain in British Columbia on Monday, killing seven of them, including 39-year-old Truckee resident Kathy Kessler.

Kessler, a Realtor and co-owner of Truckee Overhead Door in South Lake Tahoe and Truckee, was skiing in the Selkirk Range of the Canadian Rockies with 24 others, including several Truckee-area residents who were not involved in the accident.

“She had been planning on this trip since this summer and training with her husband,” said Sandy Casey, Kessler’s friend and the owner of Tahoe Resort Properties, where Kessler worked. “She was a total athlete. She was bigger than life.”

Kessler lived with her husband, Scott, in the Donner Lake area since 1999. The couple have co-owned Truckee Overhead Door for 11 years along with Doug Wallace of the South Shore.

“We are devastated,” said office manager Laurie Johnson at the South Lake Tahoe business where Kathy would stop in with her husband at least once a week. “She was a beautiful, lively, vivacious, sweet gal, with a lot of positive energy and the love of Scott’s life.”

Scott was to have gone to Revelstoke to ski with his wife, but delayed the trip when a Truckee Overhead Door employee was involved in an accident last week that left her in critical condition, Johnson said.

The skiing party was flown by helicopter to the Selkirk Mountain Experience company chalet near the glacier, 6,360 feet above sea level. The group was traversing the mountain when the avalanche occurred, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said.

The skiers were buried by a wall of snow, 100 feet wide and 6- to 15-feet deep, according to police and rescue officials. Three skiers were able to escape the avalanche, which tumbled from 300 feet above, and rescued one person.

Thirteen other skiers avoided serious injury.

“This was a woman who truly loved Truckee,” said Truckee Mayor Ted Owens, who had known Kessler for over 10 years, “and she showed that most recently with her effort in Donner Lake water issues.”

As a water specialist with the Nevada County Department of Environmental Health, Kessler spent thousands of hours working toward making Donner Lake’s water system safe.

“The L.A. Times did a huge article on her after that,” Casey said. “They called her ‘Donner Lake’s version of Erin Brockovich.'”

Kessler was in real estate for two years after leaving the department of environmental health.

Casey said the mood around the office on Tuesday was somber.

“We’re just devastated. She was the most amazing person,” Casey said. “She was a dynamo. She really cared about her clients.”

Although official word of Kessler’s death had not been released by Tuesday evening, Truckee family members were notified of her death Monday.

The names of others killed were not made public at press time, but police said the other Americans were a 49-year-old man from Littleton, Colo., and a 50-year-old man from Los Angeles.

The Canadians included four-time world champion snowboarder Craig Kelly, 36, from Nelson, British Columbia, a 50-year-old man from Canmore, Alberta, a 25-year-old woman from Calgary, Alberta, and a 30-year-old man from New Westminster, British Columbia.

— Tribune city editor Jeff Munson and The Associated Press contributed to the this story.

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