Heathers Canyon submitted.jpg

Ski area near Heather Canyon.

Two unrelated deaths were reported from Mt. Hood Meadows over the extended holiday weekend: 45-year-old Ryan Zeitner from Portland, and 47-year-old Tim Bauters from Sunnyvale, Calif.

Both deaths occurred near Heather Canyon: A posted double-black diamond, or “extremely difficult,” area. 

“Our thoughts dwell on the families. These are tragic incidents,” said Meadows General Manager Greg Pack.

Zeitner suffered a snowboarding fall in the Heather Canyon area on Feb. 16. Nobody witnessed Zeitner’s initial fall, according to Pack, but eyewitnesses reported seeing Zeitner sliding down the steep terrain, and nearby volunteer patrollers got him out quickly. Zeitner was pronounced dead shortly after medics arrived on the scene and performed life-saving efforts. The Hood River County Sheriff’s Office (HRCSO) was dispatched at 11:17 a.m.

At approximately 1:45 p.m. the next day, 47-year-old Tim Bauters from Sunnyvale, Calif., was reported missing. Bauters’ family advised HRCSO that he had been in Oregon for an extended work trip and failed to arrive back in California as planned.

Meadows Ski Patrol was notified by a guest on Friday, Feb. 14, that they witnessed an individual (later identified as Bauters) enter into a roped-off closed area in Heather Canyon. Two separate patrollers were dispatched immediately, said Pack, but neither were able to make contact, or see any evidence of the witnessed account, according to a Meadows press release.

Bauters was believed to be snowboarding alone, was reportedly in good shape, and had gone to Meadows multiple times while on his work trip, according to HRCSO. Meadows security was able to verify that his rental vehicle was still on site, and a record of Bauters’ lift scans narrowed down a last known time and location. On Monday, HRCSO Search & Rescue aircraft was launched and Meadows Ski Patrol began searching the likely area. At approximately 6:15 p.m., HRCSO received a call from Meadows that Bauters’ body had been located in the Heather Canyon area. HRCSO has stated that both incidents are under investigation, and that no further information is available at this time. Meadows is conducting a separate internal investigation, and has notified the Oregon Department of Forestry.

“Our deepest sympathies are with his family at this time,” said Pack. “Our team takes extensive measures to protect our skiers and riders from the natural hazards that exist in this extreme terrain; unfortunately, in this tragic situation, the rider was found inside a closed area, established by a rope line.” 

Meadows’ initial investigations reveal that neither incident was related to conditions, Pack said, and that they were confident the conditions were adequate when they opened over the weekend.

“We’re really aggressive on how we manage that terrain,” he said. “The skiing conditions were appropriate, and we had a lot of people back there.”

The last death at Meadows occurred back in March 2017, when a Steve Leavitt, 57, from The Dalles went missing near Heather Canyon and, after eight days of search and rescue efforts, his body was found near the bottom of the Heather Chair Lift.

The Heather Canyon area is posted as a double black diamond difficulty and, as with Clark Canyon and Private Reserve, access is available via RFID access gates only. Meadows states that these areas are not patrolled on a regular basis and that avalanche risk exists at all times, along with other dangers. Pack recommended that skiers exercise caution, ski with a buddy, and not ski above a level they’re comfortable with.

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