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Avalanche area focus of search for missing skier

Video: Search for missing ski instructor continues

The search for missing Sugar Bowl ski instructor Carson May continued Saturday as heavy snow fall continued.
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The search for missing Sugar Bowl ski instructor Carson May continued Saturday as heavy snow fall continued.

An extensive search for missing ski instructor Carson May was called off at dusk Saturday, with search-and-rescue crews scheduled to search the back side of Sugar Bowl ski resort at 6 a.m. Sunday, said Lt. Troy Sander of the Placer County Sheriff’s Office.

As part of Saturday’s search for May, who is from Davis, the search-and-rescue team identified an avalanche slide area near where teams had been searching for May. That area is expected to be a major focus of the rescue effort Sunday, Sander said.

“The search-and-rescue team will be doing an extensive grid search in that slide area,” Sander said.

May, 23, is an instructor with the Mountain Sports Learning Center ski school and was off duty and freeskiing at the time he went missing. He was last seen skiing at the resort Thursday afternoon. He failed to show up for his ride home, and it was discovered Friday morning that he had not returned home during the night. Sheriff’s officials said May’s personal belongings were found in his locker at the resort. He was last seen wearing a blue Colombia jacket, bright green pants and a blue helmet.

Sunday’s search will likely involve 75 people and the use of a National Guard helicopter, which will allow deeper searching in an area at great risk for avalanches.

More than 50 searchers from at least six agencies worked an out-of-bounds ski area Saturday at the resort. They homed in on a 730-square-foot area after authorities got pings Friday off the last known location of May’s cellphone. Teams searched for May with the use of snowmobiles, avalanche dogs, a snowcat and on foot.

“(Authorities) are no longer getting any pings from the phone,” Sander said. “We suspect (the battery died).”

At least 4 feet of fresh powder has fallen in the out-of-bounds area since May was reported missing Thursday afternoon.

Sander said Sunday’s weather will be more conducive to searching for May.

“Some lighter snow will lessen avalanche concerns,” Sander said.

It is not clear how much more snow is in the area to be searched Sunday, Sander said.

In their investigation, authorities said they learned May typically would ski Sugar Bowl “slightly out of bounds through a tree line, and then come back inbounds and make his way down to the lodge,” Sander said. “There are so many things that could have happened. Who knows? ”

Joining in the risky undertaking are search-and-rescue teams from the Placer County and Contra Costa County sheriff’s offices, the U.S. Forest Service, Sugar Bowl ski patrol, Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue and other volunteers.

Early Saturday Sugar Bowl director of sales and marketing John Monson said the resort “is in communication with (May’s) family, and we’re awaiting messages from the search team,” he said.

Rescue dogs are training to search for skiers trapped under avalanches in the ski resorts around Lake Tahoe.

Edward Ortiz: 916-321-1071, @edwardortiz24 Bee staff writer Ed Fletcher contributed to this report.

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