Doug Read is a powerful skier, ice skater, bike rider, builder and wood carver of everything, from the benches and tables at Tahoe Cross Country to the giant arrow in front of the Sugar Pine Cakery in Lake Forest. He is an adventurer, practical joker and can tell a tall tale. But, most importantly, according to longtime friend and fellow community supporter Larry Sevison: “He is very generous with his time. If there is anything going on, he’s involved in it.”
In 1974, Sevison’s son, Lance, perished after getting lost skiing in the back of Northstar. After the tragedy, Read was part of a small group that formed the Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue Team to help prevent similar tragedies in the future. Since that time, Read, now 69 years old, has joined the other brave men and women of Search & Rescue more than 150 times to head out on searches to rescue those who are lost. Often they head into blizzard conditions in the dark in a race against time and the elements.
“Doug is probably responsible for saving more lives in the back country than anyone else,” says fellow TNSART member Randall Osterhuber.
He was also instrumental in organizing The Great Ski Race, which was started in the 1970s by Skip Reedy.
“We worked hard at developing that race, making it part of the community. It got more and more popular. It evolved into the biggest fundraiser for Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue,” says Read, who was involved every step of the way in working to make the race a success, which returns March 5.
“Doug is probably responsible for saving more lives in the back country than anyone else.”
– Randall Osterhube
In addition to his work with Search & Rescue and The Great Ski Race, Read was the North Tahoe High School Nordic coach for five years in the 1990s and works tirelessly to assist Tahoe Cross Country as both a board member and volunteer. Now, you can also find him helping out and providing comic relief at the new ice-skating rink at the Tahoe City Winter Sports Park. When he and wife, Laura, bought a second home in Sierraville, he dove into that community and started the annual Tour De Manure bike ride around Sierra Valley cow country. The June 17 event attracts a lot of Tahoe locals whom the Reads have convinced to come enjoy the valley for the day.
Read grew up in Illinois, went to college in Michigan and served in the Navy in Florida. In 1970, while traveling across the country with friends, he drove over the Mt. Rose Highway and saw Lake Tahoe for the first time. His reaction, he says was: “Oh my God, are you kidding me?”
He continued on, traveling to Washington and Alaska, but he couldn’t get the beauty of Tahoe out of his mind. So he came back, got a job at Olympic Village Inn and has been a part of Tahoe ever since. His first “Tahoe home” was sleeping on the deck of Larry Sevison’s house in Carnelian Bay while he looked for a place.
He worked in ski shops and as a laborer for Sevison’s construction firm while he learned to ski the back country that he now knows like the back of his hand. He became a builder, first for himself, but later found it more enjoyable to work for others. A few years ago he saw a huge metal arrow hanging from a tree and it gave him an idea.
“We would sneak around at night and install three-foot-long wood arrows and people would come in the morning and see the surprise,” he says.
Since then he has built a few wood arrows that are more than 12 feet long and he has taken to making tomahawks and pumpkin carvings. It’s all part of Read’s playful personality.
“Absolutely one of the funniest guys I’ve ever known,” says Osterhuber. “I’ve been on the ground laughing, he is so funny.”
Read has a drive to experience life to its fullest. He has raced in 16 Loppet races in Europe and America. These are 50-kilometer, endurance, cross-country ski races that attract thousands of racers.
Sevison tells how Read decided to go for a bike ride one day. He rode all the way up to Seattle, then into Canada. He then caught a train across Canada and rode his bike into New England. There he went into a truck stop and talked a truck driver into giving him a ride to Chicago to visit his parents. Later, he convinced another trucker to give him a ride with his bike back home to Tahoe.
Once, he and Osterhuber climbed to the top of the remote peak in rural Nevada and skied all the way into the town of Austin, a feat that has probably never been done before.
“I could tell you a million stories about Doug Read,” says Osterhuber.
While Tahoe and skiing are true joys, Read is quick to focus on the close relationships he developed with his fellow searchers, who for decades have tromped through deep powder into gale force winds under the constant threat of avalanche.
“You spend the night out in the middle of a nasty storm, you get a different closeness. There are some difficult times out there. Finding people that are really in trouble. Getting them out and getting them home is really special,” Read says. “I’ve made so many fine friends through the years, I feel blessed.”
For more information on Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue, visit tahoenordicsar.com.