Sacto 9-1-1
December 30, 2010
Missing snowboarder found dead

By Kim Minugh and Bill Lindelof

The search for a missing snowboarder near the Alpine Meadows Ski Resort came to a tragic conclusion this morning when rescuers found her body in a tree well, according to authorities.

Rescue helicopter crews spotted the body of 25-year-old Shawnte Marie Willis of Tahoma this morning on a part of the mountain that previously had been off-limits to rescue crews because of inclement weather, Placer County sheriff's Capt. Jeff Ausnow said in a press conference.

Authorities believe Willis might have hit a tree while snowboarding, Ausnow said. Her body was found in a tree well.

"The news is tragic," Ausnow said.

Willis went missing Tuesday afternoon. Search and rescue efforts were hampered by high winds and low visibility that prevented the use of search vehicles including helicopters and snowmobiles. Blowing snow also had covered any tracks.

Ausnow described the area, which is U.S. Forest Service land, as "treacherous," and said 80- to 100-mile an hour winds had been blowing there.

"The weather would not allow us to get there," he said.

Ground search crews were called off Wednesday because of the threat of avalanches. However, Ausnow said today there were no obvious signs of an avalanche in the area where Willis' body was found.

Call The Bee's Kim Minugh, (916) 321-1038.

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