Snowboarder recovering after harrowing 3-day ordeal on Whistler Mountain
The man went missing on Friday, and wasn't found until Sunday, as extreme weather conditions hampered search
A snowboarder visiting B.C. from Singapore spent two nights lost in deep snow on Whistler Mountain over the weekend, before search and rescue volunteers managed to find him on Sunday.
The 32-year-old missed lunch with a friend on Friday, Dec. 17, according to Whistler Search and Rescue manager Brad Sills, who said the search team got the call to begin a search Friday evening.
Searchers had little information about the man's whereabouts on the mountain, except for one detail: RCMP managed to ping his phone and get a 'last location' atop Whistler Mountain.
The snow was falling heavily, beginning Friday night, meaning searchers couldn't get anywhere. Meantime, the snowboarder was facing extremely challenging conditions, with more than 50 cm of new snow coming down.
"It must have been extremely taxing, mentally, for this individual just to be out there and seeing that kind of snow accumulation," said Sills.
On Saturday, the search was limited by dangerous avalanche conditions, but weather cleared enough Saturday night for helicopters to try to locate the man in the dark.
Unfortunately, Talon helicopters, which works with North Shore Rescue and has night vision equipment, was turned away by freezing rain and low cloud.
The Royal Canadian Air Force's search and rescue team responded from Comox, searching for 2.5 hours by air before heading home empty handed.
Finally, with better weather on Sunday morning, Blackcomb helicopters, which works with Whistler Search and Rescue, managed to get into the air. They were able to spot the man in an area known as Cake Hole.
"The subject was dressed entirely in black," said Sills. "From the air, he appeared to be just another rock lying in the snow."
According to a Blackcomb Helicopters post on social media, the snowboarder managed to shake the limb of a tree to get the attention of the search team.
Sills said he'd lost his snowboard in a creek and was in very rough shape when he was found.
Core temperature 29 C
"He was not moving when we met him," said Sills, adding that he had a significant head injury. "When he got to the clinic, his core temperature was below 29 degrees Celsius, which is definitely indicative of a condition that is life-threatening."
The 32-year-old's sister got in touch with Whistler Search and Rescue to make a donation, express gratitude, and share the update that the man was recovering well, according to Sills.
Sills said the rescue subject shared a common profile for people lost in the area — he wasn't local or familiar with the ski resort's terrain, which is much larger than most ski hills.