Missing skiers found in good condition near Lake Tahoe

SACRAMENTO " Two skiers were in good condition today after being plucked from the snowy Sierra Nevada mountains, where they had been missing for two days during a winter storm.

Patrick Frost, 35, and Christopher Gerwig, 32, both of San Francisco, were spotted by a Placer County Sheriff's Department helicopter in the Five Lakes Creek drainage, about seven miles from the Alpine Meadows ski resort.

Earlier sheriff department reports said the pair was about two miles from the resort, just west of Lake Tahoe.

The men, described as expert skiers, were flown to Auburn Municipal Airport and taken to Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital as a precaution, authorities said.

The pair suffered "really minor, minor" frostbite after being exposed to the weather for two days, said hospital spokeswoman Janice Davis.

"Condition is good, and we're happy for it," Davis said. "They just want to get home. We're just trying to get them food and get them what they need. ... They looked good. They were hungry, cold " they ate well."

The pair was declining interviews, she said.

Rescuers had been concerned that fresh snow and plunging temperatures would complicate efforts to find the skiers, but were hopeful they had survived.

Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Allan Carter said both men were moving across the snow when they were spotted by the helicopter crew.

The helicopter landed at the site, but only had room for one of the skiers. An observer stayed behind with one skier while the pilot flew the other skier to the Auburn airport, then returned for the second skier and the observer, authorities said.

Gerwig's older brother, Brian Gerwig, 35, of Denver, flew into Reno on Monday morning and was standing in a rental car line when he a call with the news.

"My biggest relief was just hearing this morning they found them and they're alive," Gerwig said. Gerwig said he was "just ecstatic. Just unbelievable."

He said his brother generally carried a backpack with outdoor equipment while skiing, though he didn't know how the two skiers were equipped for this trip.

"Chris lived in Big Sky, Montana, for eight years. Did a lot of backcountry skiing, had a lot of experience," Gerwig said.

The storm dumped between one and two feet of snow around Lake Tahoe and up to three feet in the mountains over the weekend before moving toward Southern California and Arizona, said Mark Deutschendorf, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Reno.

Alpine Meadows was closed Sunday because a 12-foot-deep avalanche triggered by an avalanche-control crew covered its main entrance road, Carter said. No one was trapped or injured by the avalanche.

In Southern California, meanwhile, rescuers located 53-year-old Ellen Coleman of Riverside, who was reported missing Sunday, on Mount San Jacinto. Riverside County sheriff's officials say Coleman took a tramway to the 8,500-foot level on the mountain and had planned to hike to the 10,800-foot summit.

A sheriff's spokesman did not know her condition today or how she would be taken off the mountain.

Residents of Southern California braced themselves for the worst of another winter storm predicted to soak lowland areas and coat the mountains with snow.

Overnight, snow was so heavy that a section of Interstate 5, which passes through the Tehachapi Mountains about 65 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, was closed shortly before midnight Sunday because snow and ice made the road treacherous, officials said.

Lanes in both directions across the Grapevine section were reopened Monday.

Also in Southern California, officials planned to begin clearing a rock slide that blocked Mt. Wilson road in the Angeles National Forest. Huge boulders crashed onto the roadway northeast of Los Angeles on Sunday.


Associated Press writers Martin Griffith in Reno, Brian Melley in Mammoth Lakes, Jason Dearen and Terence Chea in San Francisco and Thomas Watkins in Los Angeles contributed to this report.


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