2 teen snowmachiners rescued from Mat-Su mountainside

Two 15-year-olds were rescued via helicopter late Friday night after their snowmachines became stuck deep in a ravine on the side of Bald Mountain north of Wasilla.

Just before midnight, the teenagers were able to use their cellphones to call emergency dispatchers to ask for help, said Chelsea Aspelund, a public affairs officer with the Alaska Air Guard’s 176th Wing, which staffs the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center.

“They were about 1,500 feet up Bald Mountain in a ravine, and they were in chest-deep snow with alders all around them,” a few miles from the trail, Aspelund said Saturday. “They were very stuck.”

The RCC dispatched a helicopter team in an HH-60 Pave Hawk to locate the boys, but because of the steepness of the hillside, and thick fog and blowing snow in the area of the ravine, the pilot knew it would be difficult to land, Aspelund said.

Within an hour and a half of the initial call, pararescuers were able to safely hoist the teens out of the deep snow without needing to land, and took them to a hospital where their parents were waiting.

“They were evaluated with no injuries reported,” Alaska State Troopers wrote in an online report. Aspelund said that the teens were “cold, but not hypothermic.”

Aspelund stressed the importance of carrying two-way communication devices that can relay positioning and distress signals to officials, as well as something to signal location with, like a flashlight and mirror or a lighter, to help hasten a rescue mission.


Even a cigarette lighter can be seen a couple miles away by a pilot wearing night vision goggles, she said. Troopers said in the report that the teens had no survival gear on them at the time. Aspelund said they were able to use the flashlight on their cellphones to help rescuers find them.

“Traveling with basic safety gear and basic survival gear, including something to signal with, is invaluable for the search teams,” Aspelund said.

Annie Berman

Annie Berman covers health care for the Anchorage Daily News. She's a fellow with Report for America, and is a graduate of the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. A veteran of AmeriCorps and Vista volunteer programs, she's previously reported for Mission Local and KQED in the Bay Area.