The body of Shawnte Marie Willis, 25, an intermediate snowboarder, was found this morning (Dec. 31, 2010) in a tree well on the backside of Alpine Meadows Resort, according to a report in the Sacramento Bee newspaper by reporter Kim Minugh.
Crews had been searching for her since Tuesday after Willis got separated from her friends, according to an Alpine Meadows spokesperson earlier in the week. She was reportedly seen snowboarding away from the resort, past ski area boundary signs near the top of Wolverine Bowl, which is rated black diamond.
Her body was found in an area known as the Granite Chief Wilderness, about 400 feet below the Pacific Crest Trail. That area has seen 80-100 mph winds, high avalanche danger, and what Placer County Sheriff's Captain Jeff Ausnow, described as "blinding, blowing, blizzard snow.
"We could not get there," he told the Bee. "The weather just would not allow us to get there." A Black Hawk helicopter crew arrived Wednesday night to search where the ground crews could not go, but they were unsuccessful in finding Willis until Thursday morning with some 40 other rescuers on the ground.
There are many dangers lurking as traps for boarders and skiers during the kind of weather experienced across the nation this month. Tree wells are one of those dangers as a poster to the Bee notes, saying, "basically, ‘the well' is the area directly around the tree's base. The snow does not harden up, meaning a boarder or skier can easily sink into very deep snow around the base of the tree (like falling into a well)."
Willis was living in Tahoma, a Lake Tahoe town and working at another ski resort. She reportedly has been snowboarding for five years.