Tahoe Nordic SAR locates lost pair of skiers at campground

NORDEN, Calif. — Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue and Placer County Sheriff’s Office teamed up last week to bring a pair of lost skiers back to safety.

A couple in their early 50s was reportedly skiing at Sugar Bowl Resort on Sunday, Feb. 5, when they became lost and ended up out of bounds.

The two went to the top of Disney Express that morning and were headed toward Crow’s Nest when they got turned around in whiteout conditions and went off the backside without realizing it.

After realizing they had gone too far down the mountain, the two decided to take off their skis and attempt to hike back up, but then realized they wouldn’t be able to make the trek.

At around 3 p.m. the lost skiers reportedly came upon Onion Creek Campground and discovered an unlocked outhouse where they planned to shelter for the night.

The lost skiers’ group of friends reported them missing and at about 5:50 p.m. Placer County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Sage Bourassa said she received a call from the resort asking for aid in the search of the missing skiers.

Volunteers from Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue were scrambled from around the area, bringing 10 skiers, a communication leader, two snowcats, and three snowmobilers to the scene.

The missing skiers reportedly had their cell phones on them but didn’t have reception on the backside of the resort. A phone ping gave crews the last general area the two were skiing at, directing the search toward the backside of the resort.

“We still had a huge issue that day,” said Bourassa. “Avalanche danger couldn’t have been higher. It was extremely high, so they were really lucky they didn’t set off an avalanche.”

The team’s avalanche experts mapped out areas too dangerous to search while a team on snowmobiles worked its way around the bottom of the mountain. The snowmobile team soon found tracks and at around 9 p.m. turned off their snowmobiles, yelled for the skiers, and received an answer back. The snowmobilers were able to transport the skiers and their equipment out to a waiting snowcat.

“You’ve just got to be really careful when it’s a whiteout,” added Bourassa. “People get turned around easily in whiteout conditions.”

Bourassa commended the efforts of the team at Sugar Bowl, stating the ski patrol director and staff stayed late, lifts continued to run to give searchers access to the mountain, and the friends of the lost skiers were given a warm place to wait while the search was conducted.

“Sugar Bowl was amazing,” said Bourassa. “They held their ski patrol there late at night to continue to search inbounds and to assist our skiers to get up to the right spot to drop to the back of the mountain.”

Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue is a team of volunteers made up of EMTs, emergency room doctors and nurses, ski patrollers, and experienced backcountry skiers. The nonprofit organization works closely with Placer County Sheriff’s Office to rescue those lost in the backcountry.

For more information or to donate to the organization, visit

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.