Sunday, March 27, 2011


Missing Snowboarder
Bryan Golmitz
March 26, 2011
El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team in partnership with Douglas County Nevada Search and Rescue Team, responded to rescue a lost and stranded snowboarder in the backcountry near Waterhouse Peak.  Waterhouse Peak is located on Forest Service Lands near the El Dorado County and Alpine County Line just south of Christmas Valley, South Lake Tahoe.  At the time of the rescue there was very heavy snow, cold temperatures and falling snow.

Sean Voss from San Francisco and a friend had been backcountry skiing when the two became separated.  Sean was equipped with avalanche equipment to include a shovel and avalanche beacon.  Sean was riding a snowboard when he got trapped in a tree well.  In his efforts to free himself he lost his snowboard, as it was not leashed to him.  Due to the heavy snow load Sean could not walk out.  At about 6:30 pm, Sean called 911 to summon assistance. 

Search and Rescue Teams were assembled and we were able to obtain a GPS coordinates of Sean’s location from his cellular call to 911.  Using Ground Teams, Nordic Teams Snowmobiles and Snow Cats, Search and Rescue teams were able to get to the area where Sean’s GPS Coordinates placed him. 
In an effort to survive, Sean had built a snow cave and was awaiting our arrival.  Due to the fact Sean was in a snow cave, Search and Rescue teams located Sean using their avalanche transceivers. 
Despite being very cold and exhausted Sean was in good health and with the assistance of Ground Teams and Snow Cats, Sean was returned safely.  Sean did not require any medical attention.
If this incident would have gone any other way or Sean not had the equipment and desire to survive, Sean may not have survived this experience.
Search and Rescue Teams would like to remind everyone that backcountry experiences can be very dangerous during winter conditions and cold temperatures.  We would like to remind everyone to have a plan and convey this plan to someone not in your recreational party. Have appropriate equipment for the conditions by not wearing cotton clothing.  Wear synthetic fibers and have enough layers to survive if your plan doesn’t go according to plan.  Everyone should travel with a friend and do not separate.  If you become lost do not wander.  If you cannot develop a plan, stay put and have a desire to survive. 

Deputy Greg Almos Jr
El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Coordinator

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