Rachel Wulff reporting


SIERRA (CBS13) — Two women are recovering after they were stranded in the deep Sierra snow for two nights with their dog. Their decision to stay put and build a snow cave was the difference between life and death.

That winter storm Saturday into Sunday made it impossible for rescuers to fly, but experience and a little luck made the difference.

CHP Pilot Greg Norrgard showed CBS13 the tool tapped to rescue two stranded skiers Monday morning. He said the crews attempted to make it to them several times but couldn’t, due to the weather.

Norrgard and Dan Lewis were searching for the two women and their dog who were last seen off Highway 88 near Kirkwood Resort Saturday afternoon. The stranded women had two things working for them: others had seen the direction they were headed, and they were able to get a text message out so authorities could calculate their latitude and longitude.

READ ALSO: Skier Missing Since Monday Found Dead A Tahoe Resort

“We saw some tracks. Officer Norrgard looked out his side and saw a person down in the snow waving their arms, so we did a couple circles and orbits, and as we were looking at them, we saw the other person emerge from the snow cave that they had built,” Lewis said.

The women were under a group of tall pine trees in an area where the chopper could not land, so they circled back and got a third man to hoist the group to safety.

The men said it was a longer hoist than they are used to, around 140 feet. The conditions also made the rescue more difficult, it was windy and a chilly 19 degrees.

“I think over the course of the night..one of the deputies said it got down to four degrees, so good for them for building a snow cave, that probably saved their lives,” Lewis said.

An air ambulance took them to Sutter Roseville where they are being treated for exposure. CHP says high country rescues this time of year are not uncommon, skiers get lost and snowmobiles break down often.

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