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Snowboard SURVIVORS

A day of fun in the snow on Mount Ashland turned into a night of survival in blizzard conditions for two White City men.

Ivan Cazares, 18, and Manuel Bolon, 23, spent hours walking in waist-high snow and yelling for help after they accidentally snowboarded out of bounds on the mountain Monday afternoon. They finally dug a hole in the snow to keep warm until search and rescue crews found them at about 9:30 p.m.

"We were lucky to find them when we did — any longer and it could have been worse," said Lt. Pat Rowland of Jackson County Search and Rescue.

The men endured 15-degree temperatures, falling snow and 30 to 40 mph winds while trekking down the mountain, trying to find their way back to safety.

"We yelled for a couple of hours straight but didn't get any response," Bolon said. "After we started walking, it got extremely cold with our hands and feet numbing."

The two had been snowboarding with Bolon's brother, Jaime Merlos, on the Ariel run before Cazares and Bolon decided to head toward the terrain park at about 1:30 p.m.

Heavy snowfall, however, made the slopes confusing, the two said, and they boarded out of bounds. After they realized they were lost, they began searching for a road.

Merlos waited for an hour, then notified Mount Ashland ski patrol of Cazares and Bolon's disappearance. Ski patrol contacted Jackson County Search and Rescue, which sent out 15 crew members at about 5:30 p.m. to look for the missing boarders as snow continued to fall.

Rowland said two ski patrol members spotted tracks leading out of bounds and followed them, discovering the men cold, wet but uninjured at about 9:30 p.m. The men were given snowshoes, blankets and hand warmers. Rowland said other crews had to cut through branches with chainsaws and ride through deep snow in a Sno-Cat to reach the men.

"We were grateful they found us quickly — our bodies were freezing and sore," said Cazares.

"We didn't mean to go out of bounds," said Bolon. "It was an honest mistake and we're thankful to everyone who assisted in our rescue."

Traveling at 5 mph, the Sno-Cat reached Lithia Park four hours later. Bolon's girlfriend, Krystal Eisenberg, along with family and friends, waited and prayed at the park until the ordeal was over.

"I was scared for my boyfriend and Ivan's lives," Eisenberg said. "I'm so thankful they found them. I knew God was watching over them."

Reach Southern Oregon University intern Jake Williky at 776-8791 or at intern1@mailtribune.com.

Manuel Bolon, 23, unloads his snowboard at his home in White City Tuesday afternoon after spending a cold, snowy night lost on Mount Ashland. - Jamie Lusch