Snowboarder lost, found after out of bounds adventure at Sierra
For David Higdon, taking the road less traveled just got him cold, exhausted and lost.
The 19-year-old was snowboarding with three friends at Sierra-at-Tahoe around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday when they became separated. The group started down East About, an advanced run on the resort’s eastern edge, when Higdon went out of bounds.
El Dorado County Sheriff’s Deputy Tim Mazzoni said Higdon claimed he didn’t realize he’d left the resort.
“He took a right where he should have gone left, and went down into a washbowl,” Mazzoni said. “He tried to head back to Sierra-at-Tahoe’s road, but he was walking in waist deep snow. As it got later, he eventually gave up because of exhaustion and because he wasn’t sure where he was.”
Higdon’s friends informed ski patrol he was missing shortly after losing sight of him. They were instructed to check the restaurants, parking lot, and watch the lifts and report back in an hour if they hadn’t found him.
“They didn’t let us know that he still hadn’t turned up until around 3:30 or 4 p.m.,” Mazzoni said.
The El Dorado County Search and Rescue team was called out, and a search started around 5 p.m. Mazzoni said two members of the resort’s ski patrol found Higdon around 8:15 p.m., inside a snow cave about 1/2 mile from the entrance road.
“It snowed the day before so they found him by simply following his tracks. His were the only ones out there,” Mazzoni said.
Besides exhaustion, Higdon was in good shape, and walked out to the road on snowshoes. A total of 14 SAR volunteers, two coordinators and nine members of ski patrol were involved in the rescue.
Last month, another snowboarder succumbed to the lure of fresh powder among the trees and ended up spending the night in a makeshift shelter in the same area.
Craig Calcogt, 20, a native of New Zealand, went out on the resort’s eastern edge. He told reporters that he didn’t realize his predicament until he completed his run down the ravine. Calcogt found himself in snow up above his shoulders, and no where near a lift. He pushed his way through the snow until dark and then built a lean-to against the nearest tree. Rescuers said the shelter kept Calcogt from freezing.
Tracy Owen Chapman, director of marketing at Sierra, said there should have been no doubt in the boarders’ minds that they were leaving the resort.
“We believe it’s very clear where the resort’s boundaries. There are signs that mark the area. When they left they were headed off into untouched powder. They knew what they were doing,” Chapman said.
Anyone knowingly skiing in an area closed to the public can be prosecuted for trespass. The misdemeanor crime carries the penalty of up to six months in the county jail, and fines of up to $1,000. Last year, a woman prosecuted for leaving Heavenly Ski Resort’s boundaries was put on probation and ordered to pay the costs of her rescue, which were substantial, according to SAR officials.
“We take an aggressive stance on this,” said Deputy Terry Fleck, coordinator of the SAR team. “One day we’re going to get one of our people hurt, looking for someone who should have known better.”
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