Potentially deadly practice ends with several snowboarders found in good health
Skiing and boarding out-of-bounds appear to have no boundaries.
With the lure of fresh powder, a spate of search-and-rescue calls have surfaced from county to county around Lake Tahoe in the last week.
A 22-year-old Clayton man became lost early last week after snowboarding off Sugar-N-Spice Run at Sierra-at-Tahoe Snowsport Resort. He was found nearly eight hours later by search-and-rescue crews, an El Dorado County sheriff’s deputy said.
Mark Rogelstad agreed to meet friend Louis Gernhart at their vehicle after Gernhart broke his snowboard about 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 16. Rogelstad never appeared and a search-and-rescue tone was sounded at 6:30 p.m.
A deputy said Rogelstad told his rescuers he knew he was out-of-bounds about 15 minutes after he got off the run. He walked in chest-deep snow while following Aspen Creek, certain that the drainage would lead to a road, the deputy added.
About an hour after he became lost, the wet and exhausted Rogelstad made a snow cave and waited for help. He heard a whistle from search and rescue and was found at 8:10 p.m., the deputy said.
Rogelstad said he didn’t intend to go out-of-bounds. Sierra-at-Tahoe officials said there was a sign about 20 yards from where Rogelstad left the trail.
He was not cited.
A separated father and son team at Mott Canyon on Saturday were found safe and sound before a Douglas County search and rescue unit was forced to go out.
“We’re kept pretty busy in the winter. It’s pretty common at Heavenly,” said Sgt. Joe Duffy of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department. Its unit averages about up to three calls a month.
El Dorado County sheriff’s SAR averages about 50 calls a year, Deputy Terry Fleck said. The unit has counted 45 this year, with the bulk of the calls coming in the summer months and winter a close second. Fatalities are rare.
Rescues on average cost between $1,000 and $5,000. It is up to the courts if the expense is passed on to the person who was lost. Air support provides the most expensive reimbursement costs, which can run as high as $10,000.
Some people end up settling with the sheriff’s department and ski resort on a payment plan.
“We have one woman paying $50 for the next 10 years,” Fleck said.
The West Shore has its fair share of rescue calls as well.
Placer County sheriff’s deputies reported two search and rescue efforts for overdue skiers and boarders late last week.
On Friday at 5 a.m., two men were recovered by the Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue Team near the bottom of Lookout Mountain at Northstar-at-Tahoe. Andrew Meyers, 18, of Windsor, and Matthew Witzel, 18, of Redwood Valley, were found in good health.
The two Northern Californians apparently left the North Shore ski area’s open area on Thursday and skied into a posted closed area, where they became lost, the sheriff’s department reported. The men built a snow shelter for refuge from the harsh weather and started moving again early Friday morning as the storm broke.
Both men were cited for skiing in a closed area.
Another snowboarder suffering from mild hypothermia was rescued by the same SAR team late Friday night.
Richard Navarro, 33, of San Pablo, was found south of Whisky Creek Camp, which leads to the Five Lakes drainage area on the west side of the Alpine Meadows Ski Area.