Alpine Meadows skiers huddled in snow caves to survive (with video)
February 4, 2008
Rationing energy bars and hunkering down in a snow cave helped a pair of San Francisco skiers through two frigid nights in the backcountry west of Alpine Meadows ski resort.After getting lost from Alpine on Saturday afternoon in a heavy snowstorm, Patrick Frost, 35, and Christopher Gerwig, 32, were spotted by a Placer County Sheriff helicopter at 10:30 a.m. Monday as they were heading toward Hell Hole Reservoir, about seven miles west of the ski resort, said Placer County Sheriff Sgt. Allan Carter.We rationed Clif bars, eating two bites a day, Gerwig told the media after he and Frost were released from an Auburn hospital. We just kept a positive attitude, Gerwig said. We never thought we wouldnt get out.The pair suffered really minor, minor frostbite after being exposed to the weather for two days, said Janice Davis, Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital spokeswoman.They looked good, Davis said. They were hungry, cold they ate well.Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue skiers, Alpine Meadows Ski Patrol and Placer County Search and Rescue combed hundreds of miles looking for the two men, who dug into the snow for shelter and waited out the storm, officials said.They just made snow caves and cuddled for warmth, Placer Sheriff’s Lt. Jeff Ausnow said. They said they kind of got their knowledge of building snow caves from the Discovery channel. They had a couple Power Bars they rationed out and ate. They melted snow in a plastic baggie one of them had in his pocket from a sandwich or something. That was it.The two men had only their ski equipment and jackets for the trip, Ausnow said.Gerwigs brother, Brian Gerwig of Denver, flew into Reno on Monday. He got news of the rescue while at the airport. Brian Gerwig said his brother is an experienced backcountry skier, who lived in Big Sky, Montana for 8 years.The two skiers had been roommates in San Francisco, Brian Gerwig said.The search effort for his brother two helicopters and nearly 25 skiers amazed him, he said.The effort is truly amazing, and if I ever get a chance to talk to any of them, Id give them a big hug, Brian Gerwig said.I cant tell you how happy we are, said Alpine Meadows Spokeswoman Rachael Woods. This is about as great as it can get.The search, which had been hampered by avalanche danger, winds and snow, finally kicked into high gear Monday morning under blue skies. The clearing allowed helicopters into the air.The Sierra Suns Julie Brown and The Associated Press contributed to this report.