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Newsletter

December 2011


Doldrums…

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.


Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.


These two stanzas from The Rime of The Ancyent Marinere, written in 1797 by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, describe the doldrums, the infamous windless low pressure zone at the equator. Sailing vessels from the days of old would often stay becalmed in the doldrums for weeks at a time, helplessly waiting for the winds to begin again. Rations would run short, scurvy outbreaks would haunt the crew, cargo in the ship’s hold would rot. Yet day after day the anxious crew would cast their forlorn eyes toward the horizon, desperately searching for any signs that the wind would deliver them from their equatorial madness....

Gustave Dore, 19th century wood engraved illustration, The Mariner



….Wait, are we talking about square-rigged ships stuck at the equator or ski-less ski bums marooned in Tahoe? Same madness…same crazed look upon skiers’ faces…gazing at the horizon, cursing the calm weather, anxiously awaiting deliverance from the snowless 2011 doldrums. Well lay your weary heads down at the Granlibakken Hut this coming Monday, December 12th, for the upcoming meeting of the Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue Team. I have good news, exciting news, incredible news for all your seasick skibums and bunnies. Winter is coming! December 22nd. First day of winter. Until then, and until the snowflakes really start to pile up, venture over to the Hut for an evening of chivalrous debauchery as we celebrate the official coming of winter, 6:30pm. BYOS (bring your own snow), we’ll provide the beer.


Windicative…anybody happen to drive down Lakeshore Boulevard a few weeks ago during those wind storms? It looked like Malibu. Cars lined up waiting to get into Burnt Cedar Beach, surfboards piled high on top of Subaru Outbacks, studded snow tires be damned! The waves were up, no doubt about it, just ask anyone out there with an old wooden pier. Yikes. The flotsam was thicker than Rick Perry’s accent. Ya’ll vote fer me!

Brockway Point November, 2011


Winter Injury Symposium…once again Tahoe Forest Hospital did a great job with their annual Symposium. Thanks to all the TNSAR folks who made it out to the Resort at Squaw Creek last Monday night. It was a sold out event. Sorry to all those procrastinators who missed out, you’ll sign up early next year. The highlight for me was something said during the presentation about ski area liability and how to avoid getting tangled in a lawsuit. The presenter was relating an incident where a ski area was sued by someone who twisted a knee getting off a ski lift. Much of the lawsuit centered around so-called “emotional trauma” suffered by the owner of the twisted knee. The “emotional trauma” didn’t stem from the knee incident but rather from comments made by the ski patrollers who responded to the call. Their insensitive comments landed the ski area in hot water. The presenter at the symposium reminded folks to always maintain a high standard of professionalism in order to avoid costly litigation. That notion really resonated with me as a TNSAR searcher, not because of the threat of litigation but because of insensitive radio traffic heard by family members of missing persons. Every year it seems to happen. TNSAR responds to a lengthy, multi-day search and inevitably the victim’s friends and family members gather at the command post anxiously awaiting news of their loved one’s status. Unbeknownst to us in the field, these family members are often within earshot of radio traffic. I can only imagine the horror of hearing about your loved one from some nincompoop yelling into a radio, “…hey we found him and he’s dead as a doornail… frozen stiff… looks like a popsicle… and he’s wearing Levi’s, what an idiot…let’s get out of here and get the Sheriff to buy us some pizza…” Yeah. Protocols people. Never blab into your radio. Use it sparingly, get your point across and then get off the airwaves. And always assume that someone is listening in because someone is listening in; be it family members, FAA, or com-van and command post volunteers. Don’t be a nincompoop. And if you have to relay the information about finding a deceased person use proper police code-speak. A deceased victim is officially 11-44 on the airwaves. Better yet, put your radio down and call the command post on your cell phone. Let the Placer County Sheriff’s office disseminate information. The airwaves are public domain for the most part, and lots of people own police scanners. Well intentioned people often get into trouble, or worse yet cause trouble for us, by listening in to police scanners. This happened a few years ago on a search for a missing youth riding his motorcycle out behind the Nordic Center in Dollar Hill. The information came over the airwaves and friends of friends of friends of the missing youth heard about it on a police scanner and decided to join in the search. And once we were dispatched we had to contend with distraught family members in four wheel drive pickups as well as normal search logistics, high adrenaline, and the rush to find the kid. When the dust finally settled we did find him and unfortunately he was dead. But I’ll never forget thinking how fortunate we were to be the ones who found him and not his family. It’s bad enough that they lost their loved one but it would have been infinitely worse if they found him. If you don’t know already, death is ugly; best left for coroners, not family members. So be search smart, be radio savvy, be kind, be considerate, be compassionate. It is in our collective better interest to be as professional as possible on searches. Fake it if you need to. And remember, if you need to be a nincompoop come to the next general meeting and have your say! What is said in the Granlibakken Hut stays in the Granlibakken Hut. Unless, of course, it is fodder for the newsletter….


Ear to the Ground…not sure if it’s public knowledge yet but TNSAR was one of the few local non-profits to receive a Parasol Foundation “Celebrate Community” grants. These funds were given out to a few local 501(c)3 organizations who embody the spirit of community through their actions and guiding principles of their organization. Not that I’m biased or anything, but we’re awesome! In the true sense of the word, we are awe-inspiring and we freely give our hearts and souls to this community, whether it be in the backcountry or in the classroom. So pat yourselves on the back and smile. By the way, the $1,000 grant will be used as seed money to purchase new Arc’teryx search jackets for Team members. Many thanks to the folks at the Parasol Foundation!


Speaking of giving…it’s education time here at TNSAR. Our Hug-A-Tree program is coming soon to a 4th grade classroom near you. At the upcoming meeting, TNSAR’s Sara Carbonari will be handing out sign-up sheets for folks to volunteer in our local elementary schools. This is a great program and lots of fun, so open up your calendars. Believe it or not, this program has been ongoing since 1975 and many of us life-long locals participated way back then…as students not as volunteers! This is also a great way for newcomers to TNSAR to get involved. Don’t be shy, don’t be a nincompoop, get involved.


More Many Thanks…to Tahoe Mountain Sports and Alpenglow for offering TNSAR folks huge discounts on much needed search and rescue gear and apparel. I don’t know about the rest of you, but around my house money is about as scarce as Newt Gingrich’s compassion for the struggling poor. So it was good news indeed to hear about TNSAR’s opportunity to cash in on not one but two pro-night spending extravaganzas. The smell of melting credit cards permeated Tahoe Mountain Sports and Alpenglow this month as TNSAR members gorged on good deals. We are extremely grateful for the gear and for the savings. Mostly for gear, Lord knows that during those epic searches we will be glad for all the fiscal hemorrhaging that took place this past month. Seriously folks, thanks should not be in short supply for the local businesses that support us. Be generous with your appreciation. In fact, be generous with your upcoming holiday shopping and buy goods from our local shops. They are your neighbors, their kids are in your schools, they ski your secret powder stash when you’re not looking. Shop local. We’re all in this together. Stay tight.
Never Second Rate…rumor has it that the TNSAR sponsored Wilderness First Aid course was a whopping success. I have not talked to a single person who had anything contrary to say. Were you there? Why not? First aid skills are one of the most important tools in your toolbox. Keep them fresh, keep the batteries charged for your ABCs. I also heard about and saw (at the Winter Symposium) some pretty cool new first aid products that folks got to play around with at the first aid training. The inflatable splint system was pretty popular with most folks. These are splint systems that get vacuum packed to fit snugly around injured limbs or indeed a whole carcass. While there are some views that these systems may not be super effective because of improper use (not enough pressure to act as a sufficient splint), most of the TNSAR folks gave them the thumbs up. I’m guessing we’ll play around with these some more in the near future. All in all, a unanimous “hell yeah!” was heard from all who participated in this training. Keep up with all the upcoming trainings at our website www.tahoenordicsar.com and don’t forget to check the Forum tab on the website. Oftentimes important information and discussions happen without your input because you haven’t checked the forum lately. Check it out.


Still pedaling through it all….
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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