Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue, Inc. Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue, Inc.

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November 2007

Support Search and Rescue: Get Lost! I saw this bumper sticker this past weekend somewhere
near Mono Lake. It reminded me of years past when fire seasons were uneventful and some
desperately unemployed fire fighters went out and intentionally ignited wildfires just to
get off the dole. Thems were the days, eh? Two thousand some odd homes have been torched in
southern California in the past week and the economic losses (from the arson related fires?)
are estimated in the brazilians of dollars…did everyone hear that joke? Ah, but I digress.
Where was I….oh yeah, that bumper sticker. Well that bumper sticker got me thinking about
the phenomenal dearth of searches we’ve had these past few years. It seems that the last two
or three winters (at least) have been pretty slow from a search and rescue point of view.
Not that we haven’t had the occasional epic all-nighter, but why does it seem like our call
outs are getting fewer and fewer these days? Could be the weather…too few backcountry powder
days equals fewer unprepared skiers and boarders wandering around where and when they
shouldn’t be. Could be our educational efforts…maybe our third grade winter safety training
program is paying ginormous dividends. Could be reality TV programming…so many fantastic
reality TV shows to watch that there is simply no time to go skiing. Could be global
warming…everything else going wrong in the universe seems to be tied to our climatic
hangover. Could be that my pager batteries are dead and we really ARE having lots of
searches…or it could simply be pure, unadulterated, natural variability. Some winters are
just busier than others regardless of solar flares, Nostradamus, or the wacky business
happening right now in Area 51. But that’s just one of the unique challenges of the search
and rescue business; how to stay emotionally psyched, and physically prepared, and mentally
focused when NO ONE IS GETTING LOST! Maybe there’s something to that bumper sticker
afterall…maybe we should open all ski area boundaries, or subvert the dominant polypropylene
paradigm and encourage cotton long underwear and Levi ski apparel, or maybe we should just
keep doing what we do best knowing full well that when you least expect it the pagers will
in fact start beeping. Assuming you did put new batteries in….
Go Forth and Educate This is a great time of year for folks to catch up on essential
pre-search season literature. Assuming you are not too busy getting in shape for the
upcoming season, go out and get yourself a copy of Snow Sense: A Guide For Evaluating Snow
Avalanche Hazard. This is the paperback bible for anyone wandering around in the wintertime
backcountry. It was written by Jill A. Fredston and Doug Fesler from the Alaska Mountain
Safety Center, which is one of the preeminent outfits for avalanche forecasting, mitigation,
and hazard evaluation. According to Powder Magazine, “Jill Fredston and Doug Fesler are the
best avalanche instructors in North America, period.” A mere $8.95 will get you a copy of
this gem. It is truly a ‘must have’ for anyone bold enough to forsake lift lines. Written in
a straight forward, no nonsense manner, Snow Sense covers all the basics of avalanche
awareness. Anyone and everyone interested in learning how to travel safely in the
backcountry should read this book. As they say, read it and then read it again. Also highly
recommended are Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain by Bruce Tremper, The Avalanche Handbook
by David McClung and Peter Schaerer, The ABCs of Avalanche Safety by Sue A. Ferguson and
Edward R. Lachapelle, and Avalanche Safety for Skier’s and Climber’s by Tony Daffern. These
books are not typically on the bookshelf at the Bookshelf or Borders or the other bourgeois
booksellers, but they can be ordered online or from your favorite independent bookstore. For
those who are more experiential learners, look up Snowy

Joint Placer County and Nevada County Training at SugarBowl. September 27, 2007
Photo by Sara Barrett
Torrents, which is a multi-volume compendium of U.S. avalanche accident descriptions and
analyses. Talk about armchair adventure. As avalanche.org puts it, “There's nothing like
painlessly learning from the mistakes of others!” There are also many videos available
including the classic Winning the Avalanche Game produced by the Utah Avalanche Center and
Betsy Armstrong’s and Knox Williams’s Avalanche Awareness: A Question of Balance, or TNSAR’s
very own Winter Awareness video/DVD. The bottom line is that there are many, many ways to
hone your skills regardless of whether or not this is your first season or you are as old as
Doug Read. Remember, ignorance is not bliss, it’s just plain dumb.
SnowCat Strut As many of you know, TNSAR’s Larry Sevison organized an ad hoc fundraising
event for a new TNSAR truck to haul the Team’s snowcat. In spite of the bumper sticker on
Scoop’s truck that clearly says, “Safety Third” the snowcat team is indeed concerned about
safe travel whilst in route to searches and has been actively pursuing funds to purchase an
appropriately outfitted truck to haul the snowcat. The event, held on October 16th at
Lahontan, was a huge success not only for the money raised (though that is always welcome
and appreciated) but also for the connections made. In spite of the fact that we are an
organization that is far more comfortable in gortex than gabardine suits, several Team
members attended this event and purportedly behaved well and managed to rub elbows with some
of the major movers and shakers of Placer County without spilling too many cocktails and
appetizers. Some of the guests included Placer County Supervisor Bruce Kranz, Placer County
Sheriff Department’s Jeff Granum, and several Placer County Planning Commission members
(including Larry). Also present, and perhaps most serendipitous for TNSAR, was Art Chapman
of JMA Ventures, LLC. As you no doubt have heard, JMA Ventures purchased Homewood ski area
last year and just recently took over operations at Alpine Meadows. Now with the legendary
Kent ”Hoopi” Hoopingarner at the helm at Homewood and (with equal legendary status) Jim
Kercher at the helm at Alpine, Art has thoroughly stacked the ski area decks in his favor in
Lake Tahoe. TNSAR will undoubtedly benefit from having Hoopi and Jim guiding these two
popular resorts. To have TNSAR operations closely aligned with Hoopi and Jim’s operations
will certainly result in a win-win situation for all involved, especially for those skiers
and boarders who wander outside of ski area boundaries and for the rest of us who chase them
Three cheers (and then some) for Larry!
Spilling cocktails with the best of them…
----B. Wright

The goal of TNSAR is to conduct fast and safe rescues, and to help educate the public on winter safety. If you would like to help TNSAR in this cause, please use the following PayPal donate link. Thanks!

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