The first thing Julie Abrahamsen said to rescue personnel after spending more than 60 cold and wet hours in the backcountry?
"Does my dad know I'm safe?"
A feeling of elation swept over the community Saturday, Jan. 21 after Whistler RCMP confirmed the 21-year-old had been found and airlifted from the backcountry after missing for over three nights.
The snowboarder was located approximately five kilometres from the ski area on Wedge Mountain on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 24, after a joint search by RCMP, Whistler Search and Rescue and Whistler Blackcomb ski patrol.
The search was launched Friday, Jan. 23 after Abrahamsen's roommates notified authorities she was missing. Crews began looking from Abrahamsen's last known location, the Glacier Express chairlift on Blackcomb Mountain, where she was determined to be at around 11 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 21.
Multiple rescue teams, including search dogs and a helicopter, resumed the search Saturday morning.
"As the search continued, a track was (found) in the backcountry," read an RCMP statement. "Searchers followed the trail and at approximately 1:30 p.m. located the missing snowboarder in cold, but good, condition." Rescue personnel noted that Abrahamsen was mobile at the time she was found, and managed to walk under her own power to a waiting helicopter. She was then evacuated to hospital for treatment. She did not sustain any major injuries, and survived by eating snow and a small amount of pasta she had brought with her. The Norwegian also built a shelter she slept in one of the nights.
Whister Search and Rescue manager Brad Sills called Abrahamsen "a strong willed individual" who miraculously endured several nights of rainy conditions in the backcountry.
"These moments are big for us because we don’t get enough of them quite simply," Sills added. "To find someone with a strong spirit who was able to endure the last three nights' weather, that’s a big win for all of us."
But it was the unseasonably warm temperatures of the last few days that RCMP Sgt. Rob Knapton said was the difference between life and death.
"If it was cold, we’d be having a different outcome, for sure," he said.
Sills went on to credit a contracted helicopter pilot for spotting Abrahamsen's tracks and relaying their location to a SAR manager.
"That’s a large part of why we were successful today," he said. "It really was a community effort."
Whistler Blackcomb spokesperson Michelle Leroux thanked all those involved in the rescue mission Saturday afternoon.
"Such a happy ending and BIG thanks go out to SAR, Whistler Blackcomb patrol and the RCMP for conducting a successful search in challenging conditions," she wrote on Facebook.
More to come.
With files from Braden Dupuis.