A search is under way today for a skier missing since Tuesday afternoon in an advanced skiing area at Crystal Mountain ski area.
He was last seen about 2 p.m. getting off the High Campbell Chair Lift which takes skiers to an advanced/expert area for skiing. Friends reported him missing to the Ski Patrol about 4 p.m.
Ski Patrol members, volunteers and avalanche dogs are back out today combing the mountain, according to Tiana Enger, marketing director for the ski area.
Yesterday she said “searchers fanned out and conducted a pretty wide search within the ski area boundary” but didn’t find the missing skier.
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“As far as we know he was skiing by himself,” Enger said.
She didn’t know his name, age or where he was from. She said they understand he is an advanced skier.
The Pierce County Sheriff and its search and rescue unit were notified last night. A Pierce County Sheriff spokesman said a deputy is at the ski area today to act as a liaison if search help is needed. He said the search is confined to the ski area which is located on the north edge of Mount Rainier National Park at this time.
Searchers are hampered by more than three feet of snow that has fallen in the last three days. “There are deep pockets of snow in the area,” Enger said. “Our concern is snow immersion and snow suffocation.”
High winds up to 80 mph are buffeting the ski area's high country, she said.
Enger explained tree holes formed by heavy snowfall around tree trunks are a concern with deep snow conditions. Skiers can fall into them and become trapped.
A deep snow or tree well accident occurs when a rider or skier falls into an area of deep unconsolidated snow and becomes immobilized. The more the person struggles the more entrapped in the snow they become.
If a partner is not there for immediate rescue, the skier or rider may die very quickly from suffocation - in many cases, they can die as quickly as someone can drown in water, according to treewelldeepsnowsafety.com, a website for skiing safety.
With the heavy snow conditions, she advised skiers to ski with a partner.