TNSAR Search 02/01/2004

Sugar Bowl Boarders w/ family radio

The last week of 2003 brought copious snowfall and visitors to the North Tahoe/Truckee area. With a series of three cold storms moving through, dropping 3’-4’ of snow with strong winds. The avalanche threat was High, and the skiing great. All day Friday, due to the continuing weather and high traffic volumes many of the area roadways were gridlocked. Highway 80 over Donner Summit had been closed during the day, backing up all Highway 89 through Tahoe City.

On Friday afternoon, at 3:30 pm the Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue Team was paged to search for two overdue boarders from Sugar Bowl. Doug Read called in to coordinate from our end. He then contacted Sugar Bowl and found that they had a couple of patrollers following tracks into the Coldstream drainage and may need a snowcat to drive them out. The patrol shortly caught up with the boarders and started hiking them back up with snowshoes so we were thankfully called off.

We were then paged again after 5:00 pm for two more snowboarders from Sugar Bowl. These two had contacted a motorist on I-80 with their family radio to report themselves missing. The story over the radio was that they had taken the Lincoln chair and ducked the rope looking for powder. They went to the right, then climbed back up to the left (or something like that) until stopped by darkness where they dug in for the night. The motorist took the trouble not only to call in the report, he also delivered his radio to Sugar Bowl for use in the search.

A team of 7 skiers and the Snowcat met at the Team Garage at 6:00 pm. Two more skiers were responding from Truckee. Due to the traffic, response to Sugar Bowl would have taken many hours so Placer County agreed to give us a police escort. About 7:00 pm the Team truck left the garage escorted by two Placer County patrol cars, front and back (Sage driving the lead unit). As we hit Highway 89 at the bottom of Fairway Ave. traffic was stopped both ways. Sage hit the red lights and siren and didn’t turn them off until an hour later when we pulled into Sugar Bowl. Team member Mike Kennett did an remarkable job driving the truck under very trying conditions. Driving on slippery snow covered roads, he had to keep up with Sage, weave through 35 miles of gridlocked traffic, and deal with the constant witty banter from his passengers.

On arrival at Sugar Bowl, we were briefed by PCSO and Sugar Bowl Patrol. There had been no further contact with the missing persons since the motorist contact hours before. Patroller Jim had taken the radio to the summit and could not made contact. Based on the likely route taken by the victims, and the fact the radio contact had been to Hwy 80, we decided to concentrate the search in the Coldstream drainage. Two teams to start at Roller Pass, with a third from the Judah/Donner saddle. We were given rides to the top on snowcats and started our search routes. After a few minutes the Donner/Judah team made radio contact, telling them to stay put, help was on the way. Shortly after that the victims reported that they could hear people below them. That team was then guided in by voice contact, climbing nearly to the top of Mt. Judah where they found Nick and Josie dug into a shallow snow cave, with their snowboards over the top. That team had one pair of snowshoes which they strapped onto Nick, and hiked to the top of Judah. They then skied and boarded back into the Resort and the Patrol office where Nick and Josie received a stern talking to.

We were treated to sandwiches by Sugar Bowl, and packed into the team truck for a relaxing (compared to the drive there) drive back to Tahoe City. On arrival back at the team garage, we were all going through our gear when the pagers went off for another search which is covered in another story.

Sheriff Dispatch Comm Van Truck Skiers Snow Cats Snowmobiles
Burt Houser
Steve Park
Sage (escort)
Jackie Thomas
Marty Schoonmaker
Paul Honeywell
Mike Kennett
Bill Wise
Steve Twomey
Bernie Mellor
Doug Read
Jonathan Laine
Randall Osterhuber
Russ Viehmann
Ray O’Brien
Tony Bochene