PALMER — William Snyder, who died while skiing Friday evening in the Hatcher Pass area, was a ski instructor in his home state of Colorado and familiar with mountain terrain, friends say.
But for reasons that still aren’t entirely clear, Snyder, 35, was killed while descending a well-traveled backcountry route in a high bowl that holds the restored ruins of Independence Mine State Historical Park and a lodge at 3,000 feet in the Talkeetna Mountains.
Snyder was skiing when he fell and suffered life-threatening injuries, Alaska State Troopers said in a report updated Monday to reflect the location of the incident near the Gold Cord Lake Trail above the Independence Mine valley. His ski became “stuck in a hole” and he fell headfirst into the snow, a troopers spokesman said Saturday.
Snyder was skiing with his girlfriend in the area of Microdot Peak, according to Tory Tempel, an Anchorage resident who was planning to stay with Snyder and other friends Friday night at Hatcher Pass Lodge. The couple was in Alaska for a week of spring skiing.
Tempel said in an interview Monday that he pieced together a preliminary account of what happened by talking with others but wasn’t there to observe it.
Snyder and his girlfriend became separated briefly as the slope steepened slightly and when she saw him again, he was face down in loose snow, Tempel said. She dug him out of the snow.
The woman flagged down someone on snowshoes, who got help from one or two people at the lodge who rode up on a snowmachine to help, Tempel said. They attempted CPR on Snyder.
The Palmer Fire and Rescue Department got a report just after 8:15 p.m. Friday of an avalanche in Hatcher Pass with the possibility of people trapped in the snow, said Lt. Colt Graham, who served as incident commander. When Graham got to the scene, however, he said he saw no indications that any avalanche had occurred.
Along with Alaska State Parks rangers, a LifeMed helicopter also assisted in the response. Palmer rescue crews and LifeMed medics rode to the scene by snowmachine, Graham said.
Snyder received CPR for over an hour, according to Graham. He was transported by ambulance to Mat-Su Regional Medical Center but did not survive.
Tempel said he didn’t know Snyder personally — he had expected to meet him for the first time at the lodge Friday night. But a friend worked with him as a ski instructor for Aspen Ski Co.
Hatcher Pass received a significant snowfall this month. More recently, the Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center described conditions in terms of snow surfaces as variable depending on the direction of the slope and the angle, ranging “from crust to cream cheese to soft butter. ... Slight changes in aspect make a big difference.”
In a report on the center’s website, another skier in the area Friday reported issues getting back to their vehicle due to crust on top of snow with pockets of wet snow “grabbing your skis, making it very difficult to turn.”