“They get the call, they want to go”: Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue members ready for the winter season
The cell phone on the bedside table bursts out of the darkness.
It’s a familiar ringtone to one of the all-volunteer Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue Team A members, and at 12:30 a.m., it’s a melody that only means one thing: someone is lost. and needs help.
As calls continue to be broadcast in the Tahoe area, expert skiers, snowmobile drivers, snowmobile operators and others are waking up.
Soon the group has gathered in a designated meeting area in the highlands of the Sierra, and examines maps and probable locations where lost skiers may have found themselves.
Placer County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. David Lade organizes the rescue effort, but little is known about the location of a pair of skiers, only that they never met up with friends after spending the day skiing in the back- country.
The team can’t wait to jump into the storm, but Lade, who has worked with Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue for the past eight years, is holding them back. The plans must be established, the T is crossed out and the I is dotted. Responsibility for the efforts lies with the sheriff’s office.
“Sometimes that’s the only hard part to relay, because these guys, as soon as they get the call, they want to go,” Lade said.
With plans to search for the area, the team heads into the blizzard, skimming through waist-deep snow on skis in the hopes of finding the lost skiers.
As the minutes go by, the team becomes anxious. They continue to shout the names of the two men, but as the storm hits, the chances of a rescue turning into a cure begin to increase.
Just as a group is ready to turn around to search for another area, a hoarse voice calls out from a short distance. A burst of excitement pulses through the small group of volunteers, and they quickly set off in the direction of the voice and another rescue.
“It’s a great feeling because you know no one else is going to look for these people,” said Joanna Wright, who has volunteered for nine years. “We are all they have. That’s why we’re doing it.
MAKE A TEAM
While the organization has an elite team of rescuers, the group accepts volunteers to fill a variety of other positions to support the search.
Before being promoted to Team B and allowed to conduct research, members must first complete several different training courses, which range from terrain familiarization to first aid, avalanche safety and navigating the mountain. ‘countryside.
The members of Team A, the best skiers and snowmobilers in the organization, are the only volunteers allowed to do night searches.
In the case of Wright, who was a good skier but had little off-piste experience, the process to join Team A was long.
“It took me years to be part of the team. It’s not something where you show up and you’re immediately on the team, unless you’re Daron Rahlves, ”Wright joked. “I have never owned a GPS. A map and a compass – had no idea what it was, but I went to the first meeting and everyone was so awesome.
An Olympic alpine and freestyle skier, Rahlves joined the team last season, seeing the organization as a way to give back.
“Being more and more at home and raising my children here, I want to help the community,” said Rahlves. “I just want to be able to help, and if I’m in trouble myself, I know the right people to call. The training and what you learn from being with this group – you become a better person.
BORN FROM TRAGEDY
Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue’s formation dates back to 1976, when 12-year-old Lance Sevison and a friend got lost in the back of the Northstar ski area.
At the time, there was no organized search and rescue team. Instead, the boy’s father, Larry Sevison, found a group of fellow skiers and set off into the blizzard in search of the youngsters. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t reach Lance in time.
“There was no organized group,” Sevison said in a 2008 interview with the Sierra Sun. “It took a ‘kind of motley group’ of skiers who got the boys out.”
Her death will lead her father to help lead an effort to ensure tragedy never happens again. Soon after, a handful of volunteers came together to form Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue.
Four and a half decades later, Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue volunteers, based in the Truckee-North Lake Tahoe area, have located more than 650 people and conducted nearly 400 searches. The organization’s rescue efforts range from basic operations like searching for lost skiers who have exited the boundaries of local area resorts – most of which end up being directed to places familiar to the team – to s’ sit with grieving loved ones on a mission to retrieve a body. For these rare cases, the organization helps provide its members with bereavement management opportunities.
Today, Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue has a roster of over 80 skiers, nearly 40 members of its snowmobile team and several more who fill general member roles.
So far this year, team members have said the calm has returned, with a call answered helping to locate backpackers lost last month on the Pacific Coast Trail and another in late October when a pickup truck found itself snowcapped on top of Barker Pass.
The all-volunteer organization holds monthly meetings from October through May at the Granlibakken Ballroom in Tahoe City.
Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue’s first meeting in October attracted around 80 attendees, many of whom were new.
And while those numbers will likely decrease as the season progresses, there is one constant the group faces – a need to fundraise in order to purchase equipment, support education programs. and organize training.
Registration for Tahoe Nordic’s main fundraiser of the year is scheduled to begin on December 3. The great ski race 2022 will launch a new course. Instead of a race from Tahoe City to Truckee, which has often been called off due to lack of snow, the new course will keep runners at a higher elevation on a route around Mount Watson.
For more information or to donate to Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue, visit http://www.tahoenordicsar.org.
Justin Scacco is a writer at Sierra Sun. He can be contacted at [email protected]