Missing California Skiers Found Alive

Two skiers who disappeared near Lake Tahoe during a winter storm were rescued Monday morning after they burrowed into snow caves and huddled together for warmth, authorities said.

The two men, described as expert skiers, were spotted by the crew of a Placer County Sheriff's Department helicopter about seven miles from the Alpine Meadows ski resort, just west of Lake Tahoe.

Patrick Frost, 35, and Christopher Gerwig, 32, both of San Francisco, were picked up near Hell Hole Reservoir, department spokeswoman Kelly Hernandez said.

They were taken to Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital, where spokeswoman Janice Davis said they had suffered "really minor, minor" frostbite.

"They just made snow caves and cuddled for warmth," sheriff's Lt. Jeff Ausnow said. "They said they kind of got their knowledge of building snow caves from the Discovery channel. They had a couple Power Bars they rationed out and ate. They melted snow in a plastic baggie one of them had in his pocket from a sandwich or something. That was it."

The two men had only their ski equipment and jackets for the trip, Ausnow said.

The storm dumped up to 2 feet of snow around Lake Tahoe and as much as 3 feet in the mountains during the weekend, said Mark Deutschendorf, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Reno, Nev.

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

In Southern California, a 53-year-old hiker was found Monday on Mount San Jacinto a day after she was reported missing during the storm. Ellen Coleman of Riverside had taken a tram to roughly 8,500 feet elevation intending to hike to the summit, around 10,800 feet, according to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

A sheriff's spokesman did not immediately know her condition.

Heavy snow and ice during the night in the mountains north of Los Angeles closed the Grapevine section of Interstate 5, the region's main north-south artery. Authorities said all lanes were reopened Monday morning, but vehicles were escorted through the pass by the California Highway Patrol.

Elsewhere Monday, thick fog forced officials to close Chicago's Midway Airport and canceled more than 300 flights at O'Hare International. The fog resulted in part from rising temperatures that melted snow that had blanketed the state.

In Springfield, Ill., traffic lights were stuck on one color for long periods because sensors perched above some intersections could not see through the thick fog to determine if vehicles were waiting.

Iowa had a mixed bag of snow, freezing rain, fog and even some thunderstorms. More than a foot of snow had fallen on some places in the state during the weekend.