Ski patrollers on Blackcomb confirmed the worst on Christmas day, after discovering the body of a 20-year-old snowboarder who was reported missing the day before.
The male, identified as Santa Rosa resident and Humboldt State University student Cooper Plaxco, was visiting Whistler with his family for the holidays.
He was reported missing on Dec. 24 at roughly 4 p.m. A search was started immediately by patrollers, but was called off at 6:15 p.m. due to poor weather conditions and darkness.
The next morning the ski patrol brought in three dog teams to help with the search, focusing on the area surrounding the Crystal Chair where the snowboarder was last seen. Just after 10 a.m. on Christmas Day the man's body was found in a creek running through a treed area. It was inside the ski area boundary, but off the designated run.
Whistler Blackcomb told a California newspaper that a snow bridge had likely formed over the creek and that Plaxco fell through the surface. He was found about five metres below the surface of the snow.
His friends described him as a good athlete, a great skater and a good snowboarder. His Facebook page lists 272 friends. He was also a fan of reggae and rock and roll.
The conditions were stormy on Christmas Eve and overnight. The temperature was relatively mild at -4 degrees Celsius, but there were high winds and heavy snowfall. In total, 116 cm of new snow was reported between Dec. 23 and Dec. 25, with 173 cm of total snowfall the week before Christmas.
Whistler Blackcomb's Critical Incident Team is providing support to Plaxco's family and have expressed their sincere condolences.
Skiers and boarders are reminded to always travel with a friend and use caution when leaving the designated runs. Early season conditions are still in effect for large areas of the mountains for a number of reasons, including exposed creeks.
The Whistler death was just one of five deaths reported at ski hills across North America this past week.
On Dec. 28 it was reported that a 24-year-old male snowboarder from Fullerton, California was killed after hitting a tree at Mountain High ski resort.
On Dec. 24, two people were killed after a collision at the Hogadon Ski Area in Wyoming. Craig Shirley, a 23-year-old snowboarder, slammed into Elise Johnson, 5. He died quickly as a result of "massive chest injuries," while she was taken to the hospital in stable condition with a head injury. The young girl was wearing a helmet. However, she also died as a result of chest injuries.
A 15-year-old boy from Portland, Oregon, Ilya Sirosh, was found dead on the slopes of the Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort on the evening of Dec. 22. The snowboarder was lying face down in the snow when patrollers came across him. He was not wearing a helmet. The cause of death has not been determined.
There were other accidents reported as well. A British man was killed in an avalanche while skiing in France.
In Bormio, Italy, Canada's Louis-Pierre Helie and American Marco Sullivan were airlifted to a local hospital Tuesday after crashes in training for a World Cup downhill. Helie suffered a serious head injury, while Sullivan's head injury was less serious and he was able to ski down the course under his own power.