Rescuers will try again today to find a skier missing at Crystal Mountain ski area.
“It’s like searching for a needle in a stack of needles,” said Paul Baugher, leader of the ski area’s ski patrol.
The missing skier was identified as Paul Melby, a frequent skier at Crystal and a 1989 graduate of Clover Park High School.
He was last seen about 2 p.m. Tuesday getting off the High Campbell Chair Lift, which takes skiers to an advanced/expert area for skiing.
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“As far as we know he was skiing by himself,” said Tiana Enger, marketing director for the ski area.
Friends reported Melby missing to the Ski Patrol about 4 p.m.
Baugher said it was unlikely Melby was trapped in an inbounds avalanche or skied out of bounds. He more likely was trapped in a tree well, Baugher said.
Tree holes form when heavy snow falls around tree trunks, said Enger. Skiers can fall into them and become trapped. The more people struggle, the more entrapped they become.
If no one is nearby for an immediate rescue, the skier can suffocate.
Ski Patrol members, volunteers and avalanche dogs searched for Melby.
Several friends and family members also joined in the search.
Searchers were hampered by more than 3 feet of snow that fell in the last three days. Winds of up to 80 miles per hour buffeted the ski area’s high country.