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Tahoe Patrol Olympics pits ski enforcers against each other

Adam Jensen
Sun News Service
Jim Grant / Sun News ServiceSierra-at-Tahoe Ski Patrol members Zak Johnston, right, and Kelly Lacuzio work with avalanche rescue dog Khuno on a full burial search drill.
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LAKE TAHOE ” For eons mankind has launched sharpened sticks toward the heavens. At first, spear-throwing was used for hunting or in battle, but then the practice evolved into a sporting event. The javelin throw made its first appearance in the Olympics in 1906.

And now, ski patrollers from around the Lake Tahoe Basin are getting into the act, putting their own comic spin on the ancient activity.

The “probe javelin” is one of several events at the first Tahoe Basin Professional Ski Patrol Olympics, which will be held at Sierra-at-Tahoe on Sunday.

Competitors in the contest will see who can hurl a probe pole ” a lightweight metal rod typically used to assist in the search for avalanche victims ” the farthest.

But don’t expect any world records to be broken, as the poles are primed to take some less-than-graceful flights on Sunday.

“No, they don’t fly very well at all,” said Christian Smith, Sierra’s ski patrol director and an organizer of the event.

“Professional” is a word easily ascribed to the work performed by ski patrollers on any given winter day, but Sunday’s light-hearted competition will give patrollers a chance to loosen up a bit, said Smith.

“We’re going to have fun, it’s spring time,” Smith said.

Ski patrollers from resorts around the lake ” including Heavenly Mountain Resort, Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe, and Squaw Valley USA ” are expected to compete in the probe javelin, as well as a toboggan pond skim and toboggan slalom.

In the slalom event, ski patrollers will use avalanche beacons to guide their route down the hill rather than traditional gates, Smith said.

Canines will also factor prominently in the event with search and rescue dogs from around the lake putting on demonstrations involving a variety of search and rescue scenarios, Smith said.

Mt. Tallac Brewing Company will be on hand to dispense some suds and any donations raised during the event will go to the families of Chris Tretheway, Bob Tara and Andrew Entin.

Tretheway was killed by an avalanche while backcountry skiing near Cascade Lake in February.

Tara ” a veteran Heavenly ski patroller ” died of an apparent heart attack while riding a lift at the resort in February.

Entin ” a Squaw Valley ski patroller ” died in March when he was caught in a slide while working avalanche control at the resort.


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