THE TAHOE NORDIC SEARCH AND RESCUE TEAM...
was conceived in 1976 as a response to the
death of a boy lost off the back side of Northstar-At-Tahoe ski area during a blizzard.
There was, at the time, no organized backcountry ski team to help search for the boy.
Desperate phone calls to some local Nordic skiers produced a search party that eventually
located the youth, but only after it was too late. This group of skiers, along with the
boy's father (who today still remains one of the Nordic Team's most active members), learned
there was an important void to be filled. Thus, the Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue Team was
born. Based in the North Lake Tahoe/Truckee area, the Team has matured considerably after
these many years but the goals remain the same: Conducting fast, safe rescues and educating the
public on winter safety.
In February 2006 the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services completed the
Alpine Team Guidelines for Search and Rescue Mutual Aid,
a document that will help to establish standards guiding Statewide SAR support.
TNSAR assisted the Placer County Sheriff's Office in providing a substantial amount of
input for this effort, which will ultimately make TNSAR more available for SAR
events throughout the state of California.
The Team By Laws are available here.
THE NORDIC TEAM...
consists of a wide variety of individuals. The Team has EMT's,
emergency room nurses, firefighters, professional ski patrollers, paramedics, and MD's as
active members. The level of medical, mountain, and skiing skills among the members is very
high. In addition to the search and rescues, about 100 people handle Team committees such
as training, dispatch, education, equipment upkeep, bookkeeping, the monthly newsletter,
and the organization of The Great Ski Race®
(the main fund raising event for the Team). General meetings are held the first Monday of each month, October
through May, at the Granlibakken Ski Hut in Tahoe City at 7:00pm. New members are always
encouraged to join this fun and diverse group.
In 2010 TNSAR welcomed the Placer County Sheriff's Office (PCSO) SAR OHV team as a
new part of Tahoe Nordic SAR!
HOW TO JOIN...
To become a new member, simply show up to a meeting! Introduce yourself, and meet some of
the team members to get a better idea of where you might like to help out. If you are
interested in participating in TNSAR trainings, the only additional requirement is that you
must sign on for a civil defense card issued through OES, the Office of Emergency
Services. Placer County is the local issuing agency for the card; so if you need to sign
on please call the Sheriff's substation in Tahoe City for more information (a Sheriff's
representative is usually at each Team meeting, too). The station is about 2 miles east of Tahoe
City, at 2501 N.Lake Blvd. (530) 581-4038.
The Nordic Team is called out many times each year responding to a variety of search and rescue
operations. Wandering children, lost hunters, urban disasters, mud slides, avalanches, ski lift
evacuations, downed aircraft, and snow-bound shepherds: these are but a sampling of the incidents
that the Team has responded to throughout California and Nevada. No two "callouts" are ever the
same. The majority of the Team's responses, however, are for individuals lost in the winter
wilderness of the Sierra Nevada. To date, the Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue Team has located over
300 individuals; 60% of these have been patrons of a ski resort that have strayed from the area's
boundary into unfamiliar and rugged mountain terrain. The majority of these searches (and rescues)
have historically occurred at night and during blizzards. The Nordic Team has conducted searches
originating from most all of the Lake Tahoe ski areas, and has maintained an unrivaled success rate
for finding these lost recreationists.
Fielding a network of skilled search teams requires constant training. In a minimum of two field
training sessions per month, Team members are exposed to a variety of conditions and situations
that hone their knowledge. First aid, avalanche safety, navigation, and search techniques are but a
few of the practiced disciplines. These skills, coupled with the members' intimate knowledge of the
Tahoe backcountry, are vital for fielding an effective search team.
THE RESCUE COMMUNITY
Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue Team does not and could not function on its own.
The Team works with a number of agencies including Placer, Nevada, El Dorado, Washoe,
Douglas, and Toulumne County Sheriff's Departments, WOOF and CARDA search dogs, OES,
American Red Cross, Civil Air Patrol, Naval Air SAR, and the California Highway Patrol. The
Communications reserve Teams, fielding a van full of the latest in radio technology, and
the Snowmobile Team, who save much time and effort, are two separate volunteer groups to
whom Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue is especially grateful. The Nordic Team also has
excellent working relationships with the management and ski patrols of the Lake Tahoe
downhill and nordic ski areas. The expertise and professionalism of all these groups have
been instrumental in bringing successful conclusions to search activities.
The Team's second most important goal is public education. A wide assortment of TV news
shots, radio, newspaper, and magazine interviews are conducted annually. Winter Awareness,
a Team-produced brochure, is distributed free throughout northern California and Nevada.
Every winter the Team's Education Committee presents the North Lake Tahoe and Truckee
students with skits and demonstrations about being "Winter Aware". These programs are
very successful and very important, for these youngsters are the next generation of winter
adventurers. Many books and videos on search and rescue, avalanche science, survival, and
outdoor safety have been purchased by the Team and donated to public libraries.
The team truck is a 2008 Ford crew cab, specially outfitted to meet team needs.
It serves as an equipment cache holding all the tools of backcountry wintertravel: skis,
poles, backpacks, stoves, tents, sleeping bags, food, maps, radios, avalanche transceivers,
shovels, storm clothing, headlamps, medical kits, climbing skins, rock and ice climbing
gear, sleds, snowshoes, etc. Currently there is enough equipment to outfit about 12 skiers
for any weather. The truck is housed in the Team's garage in Tahoe City,
on land generously donated by the Tahoe City Public Utility District.
Snocats are a vital piece of equipment in support of the
Team's winter rescues; the machines can transport victims and rescuers when
terrain and snow conditions permit.
Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue is fortunate for the continued generosity of
the Placer County Water Agency and our partnership with the Tahoe City
Public Utility District, to operate two relatively low use-hour LMC
1500ís. The Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue Team provides the operation,
transportation, maintenance, and upkeep for both LMC 1500 Snocatís.
Check out the
Speed TV Intersections program from 2010, which covered the Tahoe Nordic SAR snowcat.
While dependent to a great extent on donations, the Team conducts a fund raiser
each year: The Great Ski Race®. The race has
grown to be the largest Nordic ski race in the West with 1000 Nordic skiers competing along
a spectacular 30km route from Tahoe City to Truckee. Other smaller events are held
throughout the season, often put on by local businesses on behalf of the Team.
Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue is selective in its endorsement of these events and grateful
for all the support received. Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue Team, Inc. is a highly
organized, highly motivated, completely non-profit, all volunteer group. The Nordic Team
has full tax-exempt status and is incorporated in California.