Skier missing in Crow Pass avalanche: search suspended
By Rachel D'oro, ADN 11/24/97
Rescuers searched a popular Girdwood-area trail Sunday day night for a skier who was caught in an avalanche, Alaska State Troopers said.
The avalanche occurred on the Crow Pass Trail, two miles in from the Girdwood trail head, trooper Sgt. Ron Wall said. The accident happened about 2 p.m. but wasn't reported until 4 p.m., Wall said.
Wall declined to identify the missing skier. But Jerry Lewanski, chief ranger for Chugach State Park, identified the skier as a 34-year-old woman who was back-country skiing with a man, who was at the rescue scene. State rangers were involved with the rescue even though the accident happened just outside Chugach State Park on U.S. Forest Service land, Lewanski said.
Strong winds were stirring up the snow, which hampered rescue efforts by troopers, Alaska Mountain Rescue squad, Girdwood Volunteer firefighters, the Rescue Coordination Center and local ski patrols, Wall said. Rescuers used the Girdwood fire hall as a command post.
"It's slow going in this weather," Lewanski said.
Sunday night, rescuers dropped flares down on the trail from a C-130 plane while others surveyed the site in a helicopter. Avalanche experts also were trying to assess the risk of further slides in the area before the air search was suspended shortly before 10 p.m. because of strong winds and blowing snow, Wall said.
Weather permitting, rescuers will launch a ground search this morning and resume the air search, Wall said.
Ray Koleser, a member of the Nordic Ski Patrol, feared Sunday's avalanche may be the first of many, given the odd weather so far this season. There's been a lot of rain and wet snow, freezing into an ice crust.
This weekend, the area got its first big snowfall of the season. In general, ice covered with a heavy dump of new snow is a highly unstable base.
"Here it is, almost December, and a lot of people are really impatient to get out and ski," Koleser said. "Obviously, the desire to ski is a strong desire, but it shouldn't take precedence over common sense."
Note: Angela Paez body was recovered Monday, 11/24/97.