Family, searchers rejoice as missing skier is found

The moment it was confirmed that search and rescue crews had found 52-year-old Carol Koon alive and safe after an 18-hour search on Mt. Ashland, sister-in-law Sharon Chappell's relief echoed in the Mt. Ashland Lodge.

"She's in the (Sno) Cat! Yes!" Chappell said around noon, hugging several family members.

Minutes later, the whole family reunited with Koon after she stepped out of the Sno-Cat into a sea of hugs.

"Thank you all," Koon said to gathered search and rescue crews before she went for a quick check up from emergency medical providers.

It was a happy ending to a grueling search. Koon, of Chiloquin, got lost Sunday afternoon, shortly after telling family members that she was going to ski through Mt. Ashland's bowl, near the top of the mountain.

She left at about 2 p.m. to make the run. By 4:47 p.m., family members had grown worried and called 911 to report her as a missing person, even as a storm with sub-20 degree temperatures moved in.

"It's the worst condition it could (have been) last night," said Lt. Pat Rowland of the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.

Crews from numerous agencies swarmed to the mountain to help with the search, including search and rescue teams from Jackson, Siskiyou and Josephine counties, the Ashland Ski Patrol, Rogue Valley Snowmobile Club, Civil Air Patrol, Brim Aviation and even some of Koon's family members. Officials utilized six snowmobiles, five Sno-Cats, and four tracked quads, along with a helicopter. Crews combed the mountainsides Sunday night. National Weather Service officials said temperatures fell to the low 20s, with winds reaching about 20 mph.

Sheriff's department officials said Koon made a wrong turn as she approached the Bowl ski run. She lost her way in the wilderness and eventually found her way onto Forest Service Road 20, which has a horse corral at the end. With a cell phone that wasn't working, Koon dug in for the night at the Grouse Gap shelter.

At first light Monday, she started walking. She eventually heard a helicopter and tried her cell phone again. This time it worked. She got in touch with her husband and let him know she heard the searchers. Eventually, a Sno-Cat picked her up. She was found about eight miles from the Mt. Ashland Lodge. Sgt. Shawn Richards of the Jackson County Sheriff's Department said there are two to three similar missing persons incidents a year. He added the outcome to this search, despite the odds, was a welcome one.

"You can never rule a person out. Was I concerned? Absolutely. But we didn't give up hope," Richards said.

— Ryan Pfeil

Read more in Tuesday's Mail Tribune.

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