GORHAM, N.H. — Editor's Note: The above video aired on Jan. 26, 2021.
The body of a missing backcountry skier was found on Mount Washington Wednesday night.
Members of New Hampshire Fish and Game’s Advanced Search & Rescue Team, along with US Forest Service personnel and volunteers from Mountain Rescue Services (MRS), located the body of the missing skier in Ammonoosuc Ravine around 6 p.m. The rescue crew had been searching for the skier since early afternoon.
The skier, whose name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin, was reported missing by his friends Tuesday night after failing to return home or answer repeated calls. Initial reports indicated that the skier had planned to ski either Ammonoosuc Ravine drainage or Monroe Brook drainage on Monday.
After the missing person’s report was initiated, a search of multiple trailhead parking lots Tuesday night was conducted in an attempt to locate the skier’s vehicle to confirm he was still in the backcountry. That search failed to locate his vehicle. His vehicle was ultimately discovered Wednesday morning in the snow-filled Ammonoosuc Ravine parking lot.
When his vehicle was located, a search effort was initiated and rescue personnel hiked up into both the Ammonoosuc Ravine drainage and the Monroe Brook drainage despite potential avalanche danger in an effort to locate the skier. The searchers spent several hours scouring both drainages, until an avalanche beacon signal was detected around 4:30 p.m. The crew had to dig down about 13 feet of packed snow and debris before ultimately discovering the body of the missing skier.
Several more hours of digging ensued in order to get the body out. The search party made it down to the Base Station parking lot around 9 p.m.
According to New Hampshire Fish and Game, this skier did have years of experience and was prepared, which was evident by his use of an avalanche transceiver.
But New Hampshire Fish and Game also reiterated that skiing in avalanche conditions is never recommended and can be extremely dangerous. Without the transceiver, it's possible the skier’s body most likely would not have been located until the snow completely melted in the spring.
Backcountry skiing is a risky venture that should only be attempted by the most prepared and experienced skiers. Less than two weeks ago, a skier got caught near the top of Left Gully on Mount Washington – a spot that has become popular for winter skiing, as it’s protected from the sun and snow builds up. Those who were skiing ventured a bit too far. The skier was swept 800 feet – losing his skis and poles – ending up buried, face down, according to Frank Carus, the director of the Mt. Washington Avalanche Center. Fortunately, that skier survived.
NEWS CENTER Maine's Ryan Breton talked about the risks of backcountry skiing following the incident less than two weeks ago: