The U-S Natural Resources
Conservation Service has run this week long class since the 1950s, and this
year, three dozen snow surveyors from across the Western U-S have gathered at
the Grandlibakken resort near Tahoe City for
survival training. Gary Schafer
coordinates the school.
Two emphasis we concentrate on is of course,
survival in the snow, survival in the cold, country and environment that we put
our employees out in. he other major
emphasis is of course because it is the snow survey school, is how to collect
that data and bring it back …
Indoor lectures on avalanche
safety, first aid and the science of snow sampling culminate in a real world
outdoor test for the surveyors. They must build a snow cave. And it better be
good because they have to spend the night in it.
About 150 yards from the
Resort, small but growing mounds of snow are emerging among the Ponderosa pines.
It’s finals day. The students are piling the snow high and wide so it can be
hollowed out and used as a shelter. Megan
Lavely isa soil conservationist
with the NRCS in Delta Junction
. She’s been
shoveling for a half-hour …
Well, I got a long ways to go … I got about a three
foot high mound there … and my goal is to get another couple feet on top so
that I’ll be able to sit up in there … so I gotta get some more diameter around
it so it’s wide enough for my body … so … I still got a lot of work ahead of me
Specific survial techniques
aside. According to Jason Bradshaw, an
experienced snow surveyor from southern
, the biggest challenge for those stuck in the
wilderness is psychological.
Mental attitude is a big part of this course …
we’ve had several courses today that talk about, ‘take care of yourself first …
control your thoughts … get things together … make sure you have food, shelter,
water … provide some heat for you … and make a plan to escape.’
Wandering around this new
cave village is Jim Scarborough of the California Department of Water Resources.
He’s already completed his cave and is helping others.
master on the upper
and hopes to never
use the training.
We travel in a snow cat sometimes up to six hours to
peaks … so if that snow cat breaks down … we’re gonna be staying the night
It’s four hours later and a
visibly tired Megan Lavely is ready to settle down for the evening. She’s been
shoveling and tunneling nonstop.
I’m inside my snow cave … I got the length right so
it’ll be nice and comfortable for me to sleep tonight … I got the ceilings high
enough so I can sit up inside of it.
Lavely’s body heat can
maintain a temperature in the low 30s inside the snow cave, even with sub-zero
I do have a tendency to get a little claustrophobic
at times … but when it comes right down to it … you just gotta think that this
is the structure that’s gonna save my life … and that’s going to over rule any
claustrophobia or anything like that …
The data collected by Lavely
and other surveyors helps to determine regional water supplies. It’s vital information because the majority
of the water supply in the West comes from snow run-off. But for the men and women who gather the
data, it’s all about survival. And
thanks in part to this annual class no NRCS surveyors have lost their lives
while gathering snow samples.
Brian Bahouth KXJZ News.