Body of missing skier found

Searchers found the body of Steve Leavitt, a missing skier from The Dalles, at Mt. Hood Meadows Wednesday.

Leavitt, 57, had been missing for eight days.

An early investigation showed Leavitt died after hitting a tree in the lower Heather Canyon, the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office reported. Leavitt was then buried in deep snow in a shallow tree well, an area of loose snow surrounding a tree trunk.

Rescue crews found Leavitt near the bottom of the Heather Chair Lift, in a densely wooded area known as Jack’s Woods. The Heather area is classified double black diamond, or expert level difficulty.

Sgt. Pete Hughes with the sheriff’s office said early information suggested Leavitt died on impact, or shortly after. “He hit a tree (and) he very clearly didn’t try to get out from that spot,” Hughes said.

The tree well where Leavitt was buried was not very deep, he noted.

Leavitt had fallen into powder snow, and was covered during a snow storm. Once weather conditions improved and snow melted, Mt. Hood Meadows patrol skiers were able to find Leavitt during a search late Wednesday afternoon.

A recovery team retrieved Leavitt from the mountain Thursday morning. Hughes anticipates there will be a medical examination but not a formal autopsy.

Leavitt, who worked as a sales manager at Tonkin Subaru dealership in The Dalles, was an avid skier who was familiar with the Meadows terrain.

He last scanned his ski pass at Heather Chair Lift Tuesday morning, and his family reported Leavitt missing that night. A multi-agency search summoned dozens of rescue crews from local and statewide agencies to Mount Hood through the week, forming an extensive ground and aerial search amid intermittently heavy snow and rain.

On Saturday, officials scaled back the search after consulting with physicians and determining Leavitt could not have survived, given the gear he had on his person. Leavitt did not have an emergency locator beacon. Attempts to ping his cell phone were unsuccessful due to lack of reception in the mountain canyon.

Meadows continued to carry out patrols for the next few days, until they found Leavitt Wednesday.

“Our thoughts are with his family at this time,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

Funeral services for Leavitt are pending with arrangements under the direction of Anderson’s Tribute Center.

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