Tag Archives: Missing Skier

Paul Melby Found


Paul Melby

Paul Melby, a skier missing at Crystal since March 1st, was found yesterday by an employee working on the gondola. His body was spotted in an steep, tightly treed area known as “Mine Shaft”, near the left side of Middle Ferk’s. Here’s a photo of the exact location. 


Ski Patrol Director, Paul Baugher stated that the position in which Paul’s body was found “confirms he’d fallen upside down into a tree well and suffocated. This is known as NARSID.”

A well known local expert skier, Paul Melby was last seen skiing at 2:30 p.m. on March 1st, during a major snow storm, and was reported missing later that evening. The ski patrol began searching that night and continued for the next seven days, utilizing over 130 volunteers and covering over 2000 acres of steep terrain. The snow storms continued for the next several weeks, and soon the snow depth made further searching impossible. The search was set to resume on June 25th.

While we on the ski patrol are grateful that this ordeal is over, and Paul’s family can finally have some rest, we are deeply saddened by the loss. Paul Melby was a fixture at Crystal. Not a powder day went by that Paul wasn’t there, quietly seeking out stashes of fresh snow, smiling his toothy grin and always stopping to say hello. Paul was kind, he loved to ski and he found a community who loved him at Crystal.

Since Paul went missing, his impact on our mountain has been obvious in the number of volunteers who searched for him as well as the outpouring of love and sadness for our  friend. I’m not going to say, “at least he died doing what he loved.” But he was skiing a great run. His skis were still on when he was found yesterday, which tells me that he must not have struggled much. He was still wearing his goggles.

My hope is that he just drifted away, unaware of the just how deeply he would be missed. Rest in peace, my friend.

Search for Missing Skier Will Resume at Crystal


The snowpack at Crystal is starting to melt. Total snow in Green Valley is 122 inches as of this morning, which means that the search for Paul Melby will resume soon. Paul disappeared on March 1st at Crystal Mountain while skiing alone. He was last seen at 2:30pm skiing Rabbit Ears underneath Chair 6. There was 100 inches of snow on the ground. It is presumed he fell into a tree well. I’ve written more about this here and here.

Search Details

Sat. & Sun. June 25 & 26: Main thrust of search, when volunteers are needed. We are expecting to reach target snow melt by June 25th and will be looking for volunteers to help with the search.

Those willing to help must be:

  • expert level skiers or snowboarders able to handle expert terrain as second nature, so attention can be paid to thorough searching, not on maneuvering/surviving on skis.
  • have and be able to use skins, snowshoes or other means of ascending, and “expert level” traversing definitely WILL be required.
  • able to stay outside–possibly all day–with ample opportunities for rest. Food, drink, bathrooms and sunscreen may not be easily accessible so come prepared–but travel light; “10 essentials” type packs may hinder progress through tight trees.
  • each team of 2 should have a cell-phone. Verizon service preferred, AT&T OK, others may need to rely on text messaging. Radio’s may be available for those without phones, but we may want the ability to converse privately, too.

This is an official Missing Person search conducted with the approval of the Sheriff’s Office, not an opportunity for free skiing. Searchers will be assigned areas to search, and will be required to report back with details of the location of terrain searched and density of tracks in the area.

Lifts will be used and searching will be done in areas not open to searcher’s friends/family or the general public.

Those of you willing to search can leave a comment here, email me personally or call Patrol Dispatch at 360-663-3060. Let’s find Melby and bring him home to his family.

The Search For Paul Melby Brings The Mountain Together


Every day since Paul Melby’s disappearance on Tuesday hundreds of volunteers have scoured every nook and cranny of Crystal’s terrain looking for the missing skier.

These skiers and snowboarders have demonstrated tremendous generosity, banding together, spending hours and days looking for any sign of Paul. Last seen skiing under the High Campbell chair in Rabbit Ears Chute, little is known about where to focus the search.

Ski patrol and volunteer searchers have thoroughly scoured the mountain and yet the search continues. When a skier went missing at Mt. Bachelor, hundreds of volunteers searched for 23 days before being found.

The snowy conditions that brought Paul to the mountain have made searching especially difficult. I’m praying that Melby is found soon. Thanks to all who have sacrificed time and effort to join the search.

Search Continues for Missing Skier


Paul Melby, a Crystal Mountain local and good friend, was last seen at the top of the High Campbell lift on Tuesday afternoon. A few hours later, when he didn’t make it in after last chair, his friends alerted the patrol. Seven teams searched Tuesday night. With little information to his possible whereabouts, patrol director, Paul Baugher was quoted as saying it’s “like searching for a needle in a stack of needles.”

We fear he fell into a tree well. An expert skier often skiing alone, Melby could have fallen into the soft, unconsolidated snow that surrounds tree trunks. Dense limbs prevent the snow from becoming cohesive.making it difficult to get out.

I, myself, have fallen into a tree well in the Left Angle Trees area. (Note to my Mom: I know you are reading this, and it wasn’t that bad. I’m just giving an example here about the dangers of tree wells and my experience, don’t worry. I know that you, too have had close calls in tree wells! Okay thanks to all my non-relative readers for that disclaimer.) I was alone and caught an edge. As I glided, slow-motion-like towards the dark limbs, I thought nothing of it. I could just grab a limb and pull myself out. But it wasn’t that easy. The snow was loose and the more I moved, the further my body slipped down into the powder. Luckily, I could reach my bindings to release them, allowing me to get my feet beneath me and climb the tree limbs. Getting caught in a tree well is much like hanging from the tree several feet off the ground, but unable to breathe.

Recently we practiced searching for a victim in a tree well. I was the victim. My step-daughter, Evelyn, was shadowing me that day and she acted as the witness, while I shimmied down into a tree well, keeping my skis in what I thought was a visible location. I made a call as a victim might–from my cell phone alerting the patrollers, who came to search for me. I could hear their voices and resisted the urge to call on the radio to bring them in. I wanted to tell them, I’m right over here, just keep going around the next tree. Don’t miss me, don’t get too low and ski right past me. I’m right here! Even though the snow was dense and work-hardened around the base of the tree, it was still uncomfortable and I dared not move too much.

I was relieved when after twenty minutes, the other patrollers found me and extricated their “victim”. It was yet another reminder to stay away from tree wells and always ski with a partner. Had Evelyn not been there, the patrollers wouldn’t have found me so quickly, if at all.

This morning the search for Melby continues. His family has asked for volunteers to help in the search. If you are an advanced skier and want to help out, meet at 8:30 at the patrol room near the base of the gondola.

My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and everyone in the Crystal community.