Skier rescued, lucky to live
Rescuers found a woman in chestdeep snow amid blustery snow drifts in what is described as an ‘‘epic rescue’’.
The woman was found huddled on the edge of the treeline at 2.30am on Monday after becoming lost while skiing on the Turoa skifield on Mt Ruapehu.
Had it not been for a joint rescue effort those who found the woman say she would not have survived the night.
She’d set off for a day’s skiing on Sunday and on the last run had left the ski boundary having followed the wrong valley, a spokesperson for the Taupo-based Greenlea rescue helicopter said.
‘‘With the onset of darkness she became lost.’’
Equipped with a cellphone but minimal battery power the woman put out a call to a friend saying she was aiming to make it to the Massey ski lodge.
Concerned, the woman’s friend phoned police at 5.50pm saying the skier may need assistance.
There was a lot of ground for searchers to cover,’’ the spokesperson said.
By now the woman’s phone was dead, it was dark and weather conditions were dangerous, National Park police Constable Conrad Smith said.
Searchers covered a vast area of the mountain, assisted by the Greenlea helicopter which provided an aerial view.
About 2.30am one of the ski patrols spotted the woman in a ‘‘very steep gully’’ in deep snow drifts, huddled on the edge of a tree line, well outside of the ski area boundary.
‘‘With deteriorating weather it was silently acknowledged that she would be unlikely to survive the night if she was in the open, so needless to say it was with great relief that she was eventually found.’’
A helicopter dropped a rescuer to her and managed to pull her out of the chest-deep snow.
The Greenlea helicopter was then able to hover-load a Ruapehu Alpine Rescue team member nearby.
‘‘She was mildly hypothermic but otherwise OK, just extremely grateful we’d managed to find her,’’ Smith said.
‘‘Skiers leaving the skifield boundary should always be travelling with at least one other person, and be carrying a transceiver, shovel and a probe at a minimum.