Searchers will use electronic devices today in hopes of finding Paul Melby, an expert skier missing in the Crystal Mountain ski area since Tuesday.
Melby most likely was a victim of what’s known as a NARSID, or non-avalanche-related snow immersion death, said Paul Baugher, director of Crystal’s ski patrol and the Northwest Avalanche Institute.
Most commonly this means falling into a tree well, an air pocket formed around a tree in deep snow conditions like Northwest ski areas are experiencing.
When a skier falls into a tree well, the pocket often collapses, entombing the skier, who can lose consciousness in as little as two minutes.
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“It’s a hazard that is very much underappreciated,” said Baugher, who established the website www.treewelldeepsnowsafety.com.
On Thursday, about 90 people, 58 of whom were volunteers, scoured the mountain for any sign of Melby.
Searchers have covered about 2,000 acres of the ski resort property and were beginning to recheck areas, focusing on tree wells.
Friends and family members have said it would be out of character for Melby to go out of bounds. He was reported missing Tuesday.
Matt Melby told KIRO-TV that his brother could have survived a few days on the mountain.
“He’s a big, strong man and he’s tough,” Matt Melby said.