South Columbia SAR on site in the Bonanza area during the weekend rescue of two skiers. (Photo submitted)

South Columbia SAR on site in the Bonanza area during the weekend rescue of two skiers. (Photo submitted)

Skier credits Spot beacon for alerting SAR

One of the rescued skiers is a Grand Forks resident

One of the cross-country skiers rescued Jan. 20 near the Paulson Summit is crediting his Spot beacon for its role in the rescue.

The pair was overdue after skiing east of the Paulson in the Bonanza area and area search and rescue crews began scouring the region that evening

Grand Forks Search and Rescue president Grant Burnard, told the Grand Forks Gazette a group of cross-country skiers and sleds made repeated efforts to reach the pair but around 3:30 a.m. stopped for the night due to the darkness and high avalanche risk.

The team returned for the second search period around 6 a.m. the morning of Jan. 21. The skiers were rescued with a helicopter from Vernon Search and Rescue around noon and brought back to the parking area, Burnard said.

Burnard said the skiers, while not equipped for an overnight stay, were carrying a Spot beacon that made all the difference in their rescue. Pressing the SOS button on the beacon sent out GPS coordinates to the Spot manufacturer (located in Texas), who transfers that information to local first responders. The device works without a cellphone signal, which makes it valuable for search and rescue operations Burnard said.

One of the rescued skiers was Ken Soroka, a Grand Forks resident. He told the Gazette through the combination of carrying his Spot device, having a companion and a fire, it was a better night than it might have been.

“No one wants to be stranded in the mountains in the winter for the night, but considering that, it was a good night,” Soroka said. “We busied ourselves with a fire, managed to get it started and keep it going. Having a companion and having a fire, and having a Spot device, we were in good shape. We were cold but we did not freeze.”

Soroka said he regularly goes skiing in the backcountry, and always takes his Spot beacon — something he was very thankful for in this case.

The cooperation of the Spot team, local ambulance, search and rescue and RCMP was phenomenal, he added.

Soroka said he had the utmost gratitude for the search and rescue teams who came out.

“I am so grateful, so amazed at what they do,” he said. “I don’t know how many dozens of people gave up a night’s sleep for us. They are so skilled … It is incredible.”

That same weekend SAR crews also rescued two snowboarders lost in the Red Mountain area.