Two backcountry Rossland skiers were rescued above the Sheep Creek area Sunday afternoon after spending the night in frigid conditions.
The man and woman in their mid-40s went for one last ski around 1 p.m. in the out-of-bounds area behind Granite Saturday when they got caught in a white out storm and got disoriented.
When they didn’t come home for dinner and their vehicle was still parked at Red Mountain, Rossland Search and Rescue (SAR) took a stab at finding them but the weather was not on their side and the team had to pack it up at about 2 a.m.
“The wind was blowing and a lot of tracks were filling in so it was hard to see fresh tracks,” explained Ron Medland, SAR manager for South Columbia Search and Rescue.
It turned out the pair went west, rather than east, and ended up in the Esling Creek watershed, he added.
A team of nearly 50 SAR crew members from Rossland, South Columbia, Castlegar and Nelson surveyed the area starting 8 a.m. Sunday, with some traveling on skis, snowshoes, on sleds and in a helicopter.
The lost skiers were spotted by air at about noon that day and were brought back home in good condition.
“They were OK, they were tired, cold, thirsty but they were smart,” said Medland. “They did a lot of the right things – they built a snow cave before it got dark and lined it full of branches but it still wasn’t enough to keep warm.”
To keep their blood flowing, the two spent the night snapping branches, dancing and doing sit-ups. The next day while tracking down footprints, the rescue chopper saw a help sign stamped out in the snow.
“It was a glorious rescue,” said Medland, pleased that the two were found safe and sound. “It’s safe to ski in that area it’s just when you get up on top and suddenly you lose your visibility, you may think you’re going one way and you’re not. You can get turned around really easily.”