Authorities have confirmed that a snowboarder who was reported missing at Taos Ski Valley on Valentine's Day (Feb. 14) has been rescued.
Oklahoma resident Jake Greuel was discovered in "good condition" by members of Taos Ski Patrol around 1 p.m. Feb. 15 in a restricted area on the backside of Kachina Peak.
According to a report provided by Spencer Moorland, incident commander with New Mexico State Police search and rescue, Greuel had been riding with some family members Feb. 14 when he ventured off to explore the Kachina Peak area.
Unfamiliar with the mountain, authorities said Greuel unknowingly dropped into the restricted area around 2 p.m. and found himself trapped in a wilderness area.
As daylight waned and temperatures dropped below freezing, he dug a snow cave and survived nearly 24 hours in likely sub-zero temperatures until tracks led rescuers to his location the following day.
Members of Taos Search and Rescue (TSAR) worked with members of Taos Ski Patrol to conduct the search.
"He was pretty well prepared for something like this to happen," said Delinda VanneBrightyn, TSAR president. "He had a backpack with him and knew what to do, so he was in pretty good shape when he was found."
At 12,481 feet, Kachina is believed to be the highest lift-accessible peak in North America and is home to some of the most challenging terrain at the resort.
But according to VanneBrightyn, once a skier or snowboarder drops off its backside, the terrain goes from challenging to impassable.
"It's important for people to know: If you snowboard or ski off the back of that mountain, you are not going to be able to get all the way back down," she said. "You have to post-hole it through a lot of deadfall to get out of the canyon. And climbing back up, even with the proper equipment, would be extremely difficult."
VanneBrightyn also stated that the likelihood of catching hypothermia in the wilderness during winter – or summer – is distinct.
"It is very fortunate that he survived and that no one was injured during the rescue," she said.