An experienced skier rescued on the backside of the Mt. Timothy Ski Area in the middle of the night said he was fortunate the temperature was only -6 C when he spent 18 hours lost and alone in the elements last weekend.
“It could have been a lot colder and it might have been different story then,” 27-year-old Matt Bailey said Monday from his home in Lac La Hache. “I am very grateful to South Cariboo Search and Rescue.”
Bailey was first reported missing to ski patrol by his dad, Rock Bailey, at about 1 p.m. Saturday after he failed to come into the lodge to have lunch.
Bailey, who was skiing out of bounds at the time, said he knew he was lost by about 10 a.m. but was unable to find his way back to the ski hill due to deep snow and poor visibility.
“The visibility was zero,” Bailey said. “I couldn’t see more than 15 or 20 feet in front of me.”
Bailey said he moved through cut blocks and forested areas trying to find his way back and even made himself a bough bed underneath a canopy of trees, where he hunkered down and rested for a while, waiting for the weather to pass over.
As Bailey struggled to get his bearings, Bailey’s mother Barbara Goodliffe was notified of the unfolding emergency at Mt. Timothy and had her husband Steve Goodliffe and his son Devon conduct an air search in the last hours of daylight hoping and praying to find her son before dark.
“If you put all the odds and stats stacked against this young man the outcome is really a miracle,” Goodliffe said Monday, recalling the night, which she said was the longest she ever endured.
At the lodge, Goodliffe watched helplessly as an extensive ground search was launched by South Cariboo Search and Rescue manager James Seeley and his crew of 15, who set out after dark on snowmobiles and snowshoes in search of Bailey.
Working with the ski hill’s patrol staff, SAR members checked the perimeter of the mountain area, while people on snowshoes went down all the Black Diamond runs.
Finally, nine hours into the search, a clue emerged.
“At 1 a.m. we found a single set of ski tracks leading down into a bowl on the back south side of the ski area and located the skier cold but uninjured an hour later,” Seeley said.
“I’m very grateful for the rescue,” Bailey said. “When they found me I think they said I was near Wilcox Road going toward Forest Grove. I was a long ways from Mt. Timothy.”
As soon as Goodliffe heard they’d found tracks some of the weight was lifted, but it would be another hour before she saw her son with her own eyes arrive on the back of a snowmobile.
“I just wanted to run and give him a hug,” she said.
“I told him I loved him and pulled him inside from the outside elements into the lodge so I could have the nurse check him to make sure he was OK.”