Battling high winds and poor visibility, helicopter crew rescues six skiers stranded in snow cave

  • Published
  • By National Park Service

On the morning of April 18, Soldotna Public Safety Communications Center received a report of six adult skiers stranded in a snow cave on the Harding Icefield within Kenai Fjords National Park.

The group was undertaking a multiday traverse of the Harding Ice Field from Exit Glacier to Bradley Lake when they encountered inclement weather conditions and constructed a snow cave for shelter.

National Park Service law enforcement rangers and the Alaska Wildlife Troopers coordinated throughout the day and into evening several rescue attempts using both State Trooper and Alaska Air National Guard aviation assets. Poor visibility and high winds prevented all attempts to reach the stranded party.

On the morning of April 19, an Alaska Air National Guard 210th Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter with 212th Rescue Squadron pararescuemen (PJs) on board made another attempt to reach the group but were again hampered by high winds.

By late morning, weather conditions improved to the point where the Pave Hawk could land and offload the PJs in the vicinity of the group's location. After linking up with the six skiers, the PJs safely led them back to the helicopter, which airlifted them to an area hospital for evaluation. An 211th Rescue Squadron HC-130J Combat King II provided aerial support during the mission.

The National Park Service would like to thank the Alaska Wildlife Troopers, Alaska Rescue Coordination Center, and Alaska Air National Guard for their continued partnership and assistance with this incident.

Web editor’s note: This article was edited slightly to identify the units of the aircraft and Airmen involved.