Grateful snowboarder describes being rescued after a night out of bounds at Heavenly

Kurt Hildebrand

There was already a set of tracks leading under the rope the first time Reno snowboarder Rashelle Kotch ducked under on Dec. 14 at Heavenly Mountain Resort.

Kotch was snowboarding on her own, enjoying fresh powder on her first trip of the season, and was able to make it back in bounds without any trouble.

And then she decided to do it again.

“I was thinking I could make it,” she said. “I had a good time until I realized I was in over my head.”

“I had a friend with me, but he was on a different train with his other buddy,” she said. “I called him and said ‘I think I’ve found myself in a situation.’”

She tried to use Apple maps and then Google maps to figure out where she was.

“He said ‘you need to hike up the mountain,’ so I went over the hill,”

The 40-year-old Kotch said the battery on her phone was running down, so she told her friend she was going to turn the phone off and try to make it back.

“I said ‘if you don’t hear from me in one hour, call for help,’” she said. “I hiked up and got to more of a flat clearing and turned my phone on.”

She said Heavenly Ski Patrol couldn’t reach her because she was out of bounds, so she dialed 911 at around 3 p.m.

“I called and they were amazing,” she said. “I was talking to the dispatcher who was very sweet. She made sure I was OK and told me how to put my phone in low-battery mode so I would conserve my battery as much as possible.”

Meanwhile, a Douglas County Search and Rescue Team was snowshoeing up the mountain and another team was coming down from the top to follow her trail.

She said a small snow slide obscured her trail and once she was to the creek, there weren’t any tracks to follow.

“There was a lot of going back and forth,” she said. “I could see the UTVs in the distance. But the magic didn’t happen until the sun went down. I had my phone and a flashlight and I was able to signal with it.”

With the sun down, temperatures also started to drop and there was a snowstorm on the way.

“I’ll say that if they didn’t find me, there’s no way I would have made it out,” she said. “They were rock stars. “They did everything they could do to try and find me.”

Searchers eventually located her and got her down the mountain unharmed, where she received a citation for skiing out of bounds.

“When we got down to the Nevada side there were fire trucks and ambulances,” she said. “I felt bad. I put myself in the situation. I saw someone else had been there and I just went for it. Don’t do what I did if you go into the back-country. Hike in and then you’ll know how to get out.”

She said it was lucky she didn’t have any injuries.

“It’s a Christmas miracle,” she said. “If they didn’t come find me the way I was going, I would not have made it out.”

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