TNSAR Search 02/02/2008

2 lost skiers at Alpine Meadows

On Saturday, Feb 2, 2 skiers asked around in the bar at Alpine Meadows where they could find some good skiing. It was suggested that they try Estelle Bowl off Summit Chair or Subdivision Bowl off Scott Chair. At about noon, as a storm rolled in, they headed out from Summit Chair to Estelle Bowl. Due to poor visibility they ended up skiing down into Five Lakes Creek drainage. When they didn’t show up at the end of the day, their friends called 911 and a search was initiated.

Snow started falling heavily at about 2 pm and by the time TNSAR was called at 7 pm there was 12” of new snow on the ground in Tahoe City. Team members met at the garage and Alpine Meadows, but it was determined by Alpine Patrol that the avalanche danger was too extreme and that the search should be postponed until Sunday morning. (Two naturally caused avalanches crossed Alpine Meadows Road during the night and Alpine Meadows Patrol control work released a third one across the road in the morning)

On Sunday morning at 8:30 (with 24” of new snow on the ground) 10 skiers went up KT-22 at Squaw Valley to access the backside of Alpine Meadows from Five Lakes to Diamond Crossing, as that was considered the most likely place the lost skiers had gone. While ascending KT-22 the team members just missed the explosion from an avalanche charge thrown by Squaw Valley patrollers controlling The Fingers; soon they were off and made fairly quick progress into their search areas.

A large avalanche had come down across Alpine Meadows road and access to the ski area was impossible until about 11 am, at which time 2 skiers, the Comm Van volunteer and Brian York (TNSAR coordinator) made it to the patrol room. The 2 skiers and 2 patrollers were assigned a search area off the top of Lakeview chair, into Avalanche Gully and Field of Dreams and down to Snowcrest Road. Another Ski Patrol team of 4 searched Subdivision Bowl down to Bear Creek.

Meanwhile the team snowcat was making its way from Chamonix Way in Ward Valley across to Deer Park Ski Area in Alpine Meadows, paralleling the Truckee River.

None of these teams found any tracks or evidence of the skiers. The 10 backside skiers searched all the drainages (Grouse Creek, Big Spring, Whiskey Creek, Bear Pen Creek) as well as Whiskey Creek Camp and several skiers hiked all the way up the ridge to Ward Peak where they were told by Patrol that it was too dangerous to enter the ski area. One team skied to the west end of Diamond Crossing, but due to lack of any evidence it was decided not to continue to Hell Hole Reservoir. By late afternoon all 10 skiers were traversing up across different parts of the slopes behind Estelle Bowl towards the saddle above Five Lakes to get back into Squaw Valley.

The 2 skiers at Alpine were transported back to Lakeview Chair and did a search of Outer Outer down to Courchevel Road, then hiked to the bottom of Sherwood Chair, dropped into Ward Creek and searched it down to where the Tahoe Rim Trail hits Courchevel Road.

The snow cat had been trailered back to Ward Valley and worked its way up Ward Creek about 2 miles before turning around and 4 snowmobilers also tried to get into Ward Creek drainage without much success.

At about 8 pm all search teams were back at Alpine Patrol, planning for the next day’s operation.

On Monday 9 skiers rode the Summit Chair at Alpine and searched Grouse Canyon and the back of Estell but were called back in when the Placer County Sheriff’s helicopter spotted the lost skiers near Hell Hole Reservoir. They were picked up and transported to Auburn for assessment and released in good condition.

Sheriff Dispatch Comm Van Truck Skiers Snow Cats Snowmobiles Other
Bert Houser
Sage Barrosso
Kathy King
Laura Read
Jackie Thomas
Diane Rienstra
Terri Viehmann

Rick Miller Steve Twomey
Ron Driller
Jonathan Laine
Russ Viehmann
Bob Wright
Doug Read
Paul Honeywell
Jim Reinstra
Dirk Schoonmaker
Mike LeFrancois
Bernie Mellor
Randall Osterhuber
Joe Pace
Sara Barrett
Jim Sadjak
David Wright
Jim Granger
Jeff DeVries
Scoop Remenih
Jimmy Smith
John Pang
TJ Johnson
Lance Frautchi
Chris McConnell
Incident Command:
Brian York

Alpine Meadows Ski Patrollers