Search and rescue has busy weekend |

Search and rescue has busy weekend

Two snowboarders were seriously injured and five other people were lost during Sunday’s snowstorm.

Shortly before 9:30 a.m. Sunday an unidentified snowboarder sustained serious head injuries after falling from a 75-foot cliff at Squaw Valley Ski Resort.

The man, thought to be between 29 and 34 years of age, was listed in critical condition Monday at Washoe Medical Center in Reno, a hospital spokesman said.

The man was not carrying identification and authorities were not able to identify him until Monday afternoon. The Placer County Sheriff’s Department refused to release any further details until the man’s family is contacted.

Another snowboarder fell nearly 100 feet down the face of Mt. Tallac’s North Bowl at 11 a.m. and struck a rock at the base of a cliff. According to the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department 26-year-old Nathan Avila sustained serious injuries to his lower back and elbow.

Avila was transported by helicopter to Barton Memorial Hospital where he was stabilized and transported to Washoe Medical Center.

It took a friend snowboarding with Avila two hours to contact authorities after his fall.

“This guy is really lucky to be alive,” Terry Fleck, of El Dorado County Search and Rescue, said.

Another search at Heavenly Ski Resort for two lost snowboarders ended happily early Monday morning. The Heavenly ski patrol found two missing men at 8:30 a.m. after a five-hour search.

Kevin Williamson, 24, and Shane Volkerding, both of Overland Park Kansas, were lost when they skied out of bounds into a wooded area during a heavy snowstorm Sunday afternoon. The two men decided to spend the night on the mountain when they could not find their way back in bounds.

A El Dorado County Sheriff’s report said, “at one point they crossed a rope line but did not want to stop because they would lose their momentum in the deep snow.”

“Regardless of your ‘momentum,’ never cross a rope line,” Fleck said.

“The guys are in good shape,” Heavenly’s Jimmy Lawrence said. “They were very smart in terms of how they survived the night.”

The terrain led the two men into a creek bed where they removed their snowboards. After hiking up a knoll Williamson and Volkerding climbed down into another creek bed between Heavenly and High Meadows, nearly one-half mile from the resort’s Powderbowl lift area.

“By this time it was getting dark,” Lawrence said. “Their journey had taken them several hours and they decided to dig themselves in for the night.”

Williamson and Volkerding were both very wet and cold and didn’t sleep during the night, according to Fleck. They had a small handheld radio but decided against using it until morning in order to conserve the batteries, which were running low.

After learning the men were missing the Heavenly Ski Patrol began searching for Williamson and Volkerding at 3:30 a.m. and first made contact with them just after sunrise.

“We finally made contact through the little radio the ski patrol now had in their possession around 7 a.m.,” Lawrence said. By 9:30 a.m., with the ski patrol’s help, the men were able to hike to Heavenly’s California lodge.

“Going off the groomed runs in storm conditions is a bad idea at best,” Lawrence said. “I don’t mean that you can’t make it on your own, but if you go out of bounds your chances are so much better if you are with a buddy.”

Three other skiers who became lost Sunday at two ski resorts have been found and are in good condition.

Warren Olson, 38, of Concord, Calif., got lost in a blizzard at Bear Valley and spent the night in the wilderness. He was found Monday about 9:30 a.m.

”He was waving his arms when he was spotted from a helicopter,” said an Alpine County Sheriff’s dispatcher.

Family members reported Olson missing around 1 p.m. Sunday. Volunteers and members of the ski patrol searched for him until late Sunday night and returned to the area at 7:30 a.m. He was found about three miles outside the boundaries of the 1,288-acre resort.

At Alpine Meadows two men became lost when they strayed out of bounds.

Chris Hodgekinson and Dan Kossowski, both 21 and from Sunnyvale, Calif., were reported missing at 6:30 p.m. Sunday when they failed to meet friends earlier in the day.

Hodgekinson was found by the ski patrol not long after they began looking for him. Kossowski was found around 11 p.m.

Authorities said Hodgekinson was able to sidestep back up the mountain and retrace his path.

Kossowski was on a snowboard and couldn’t maneuver uphill. But officials say he did the smart thing – he stayed put until help arrived.

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