An employee cut through the trees near Middle Ferk’s about noon and discovered the remains of 40-year-old Paul Melby, who was reported missing March 1.
His body was found about 100 yards from the double diamond run at the 5,600-foot level.
Paul Baughner, the director of the ski patrol, and three others excavated the body and determined it was “absolutely” Melby.
“It was what we had thought; he died in a tree well,” Baughner said. “This was unfinished business. We’ve been searching the last few weekends.”
After the Lakewood man went missing, search crews scoured 2,200 acres for the skier. The area where Melby was found had previously been searched, but snow has since melted.
Snow levels were around 130 inches in March. Now, they are about 117 inches.
“It’s spring and the snow is melting and the tree wells are starting to expose themselves,” Baughner said.
Melby died in a NARSID, or a non avalanche-related snow immersion death. That means he likely fell into a tree well, an air pocket formed around a tree in deep snow, and the pocket collapsed. After a skier is entombed, he or she can lose consciousness in as little as two minutes.
Melby is the first tree well victim at Crystal Mountain since 1993.