Search for Lost Snow Boarder at Mt. Shasta

On Friday, February 18, 2011, the Siskiyou County Sheriff requested assistance from Oregon search and rescue teams to search for a missing snowboarder at Mt. Shasta Ski Park. Portland Mountain Rescue (PMR), Eugene Mountain Rescue (EMR), and Corvallis Mountain Rescue (CMRU) assembled teams to deploy from McNary Airfied in Salem, Oregon at 6:00 a.m. the next morning, Saturday, February 19, 2011.

Rescuers from all three teams were flown by Army Black Hawk helicopter to Siskiyou County Airfield in Montague, California. From Montague, the teams were transported by van to the ski park and search base.

The ski area had received two to three feet of free snow in the preceding 36 hours. The subject’s location was unknown and the searchers had no good clues to narrow the search area.

AAt noon, the three Oregon teams began searching an area near the Mt. Shasta Ski Park’s parking area using an avalanche probe line. A probe line is a very slow search technique and occupies many searchers, but it is the only method to located a buried subject that is not wearing an avalanche beacon. Around 2:00 p.m., the Oregon SAR Teams moved higher on the mountain to search a large area of the ski park called “Sticks and Stone.” There, the three Oregon teams worked together to search and probe tree wells. Tree wells can be a particularly hazardous trap for boarders and skiers following a large snow accumulation; so they were identified as a high probability search target. The teams searched about half of this area before returning base at 5:30 p.m. as daylight faded.

That evening, Siskiyou County Sheriff, working in conjunction with Verizon Wireless and the State of California, was able to use a special device and antenna to ping the missing snowboarder’s cell phone. Using this technology, searchers were able to narrow the search location to an area approximately 100 yards by 300 yards on Coyote Butte. Without this cell phone search technology, the search area would have remained the entire ski park, which is more than 425 acres. With the new information, and smaller search area, PMR, EMR, and CMRU returned to the field at 8:00 p.m. Searchers probed tree wells in the area of the cell phone ping until about 11:00 p.m.

The following morning, Sunday, February 20, 2011, teams were back in the field at 7:30 a.m. to perform a thorough search of tree wells in the narrowed search area. Approximately 30 searchers from California and Oregon worked together to maximize the possibility of a find. At 9:30 a.m., the body of the missing snowboarder was found in a tree well.