Man survives night on slopes |

Man survives night on slopes

We’ve heard of extreme snowboarding, but this is ridiculous.

It was supposed to be a carefree day on the slopes for Craig Calcogt on Wednesday. But the 20-year-old from South Lake Tahoe got more than he bargained for when he wandered out of bounds, became lost and was forced to spend the night outdoors in freezing temperatures at the Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort.

Rescuers found the snowboarder at 8:30 Thursday morning, and escorted him to safety. After a short hike on snowshoes, Calcogt was able to snowboard back to the lodge and seemed none the worse for wear – paramedics reporting that his vital signs were normal. He exhibited no signs of frostbite or hypothermia, reporting only that his boots had frozen solid during the night.

Calcogt’s knowledge of survival skills apparently saved his life, as he fashioned a makeshift shelter out of tree branches and snow to stave off freezing wind.

“I was a little wet, and it was pretty cold last night,” said Calcogt, a native of New Zealand. “But I’m all right today. It turned out OK, but there was a time there last night when I thought I might not make it.”

Calcogt was snowboarding with friends on Wednesday among trees in deep powder near the Eastabout Trail at Sierra-at-Tahoe. He had just completed a run down a ravine when he discovered he was very far out of bounds, and the snow was too deep for him to hike out.

“The snow was up to my neck,” he said. “I tried to make it out, but it was just impossible.”

He struggled through snow drifts until it got dark, then headed for the nearest tree. There he broke off some branches and built a lean-to, which he covered with snow to shelter himself against the wind. He then settled in for the night.

“I got up a few times and tried to walk around, just to keep warm,” he said. “I always knew where I was, but it was just impossible to get out. Then, in the morning, I heard some shouts, and I just shouted back.

“It was a great feeling. I was stoked.”

El Dorado County Sheriff’s Sgt. Randy Peshon coordinated the rescue effort, which included about 40 people from the Sheriff’s Department, the Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Patrol and El Dorado County Nordic Rescue.

“His ability to build that shelter is what saved his life, basically,” Peshon said. “The idea is to get out of the wind, and conserve body heat. In that respect he knew what he was doing.”

The Sheriff’s Department Rescue Team goes out on between 40 and 50 rescue missions in a typical year, “although an overnight situation like this is pretty rare,” Peshon said. “The majority of rescues involve the lower experienced skier or hiker,” he said. “But there are a few extreme types who get themselves in trouble now and then.”

Calcogt, who had worked at a ski resort in New Zealand, had been lost “one or two times before” on hikes, but never in the snow.

“When I didn’t show up, I figured my friends would just leave without me,” he said. “I didn’t know if anyone would be looking for me.”

But when he didn’t show up to meet them at 3 p.m. as agreed, his friends became worried. They reported him missing at 5 p.m., and the rescue team searched until 11 p.m., when they quit due to snow and high wind.

They resumed the search at 6 a.m. Thursday, and made voice contact with Calcogt at 8:30.

“He was in an area that is prone to avalanche, so he was lucky,” said Sierra-at-Tahoe spokesperson Nancy Harrison.

Peshon agreed.

“These things (snow rescues) are never easy, and I’ve seen them come out a lot worse,” he said. “I’m just glad we could get to him.”

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