FLAGSTAFF, AZ — The Coconino County Sheriff's Office is investigating after locating the body of a missing 57-year-old man who was last seen at the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort.
Sheriff officials said Vsevolod Predtechenskiy was last seen Saturday by family members in Chandler after he left for the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort around 7 a.m.
Authorities said he was due to return to his home in Chandler by 7 p.m. Saturday but never returned.
Deputies located Predtechenskiy’s vehicle in Lot 1 of the ski resort.
Authorities said he would frequently visit the Arizona Snowbowl. He was known to go off the track and into the trees but is not adventurous.
An investigation revealed Predtechenskiy had used his ski pass to access the ski lifts around 10 a.m. He had also spoken with his family at around that time from the resort.
A flight search for Predtechenskiy began Saturday but was unsuccessful which led authorities to begin searching on areas where snowboarders would get lost and injured outside the ski area boundary.
Just after 9 a.m. Sunday, a search team found Predtechenskiy’s body in a tree well off the Volcano ski run.
Sgt. Aaron Dick, the search and rescue coordinator with the Coconino County Sheriff's Office said Predtechenskliy was 100 - 150 feet off the groomed path. He was still inside the Snowbowl ski boundary, in the trees.
"So it was difficult, would've been difficult to locate him," he said.
Sgt. Dick said they found him inside a tree well. They're rare in Arizona but can form after a lot of snow falls.
"The branches of that tree shelter the base of the tree, the trunk from getting the snow and snow compacting around there so you get a moat or a well there where there is snow," he said.
It's essentially a deep hole around the tree that's impossible to see. Sgt. Dick said most people flip head-first into the well.
"It's kind of like a drowning situation. So you have a pretty short period of time if someone gets upside down and immersed, snow immersion in a tree well, that there's limited amount of time to do a rescue."
This tree well was several feet deep, and since he was alone, no one was there to help him out.
"It was enough to obscure the whole body so only the snowboard was visible at the top of the well," said Sgt. Dick.
Steven Andrews is the manager at Ski Pro in Phoenix. He goes to Snowbowl frequently.
"You're next to a tree and you think you can stabilize yourself, however, you don't know how deep that snow is," said Andrews.
He said it's common for skiers to get off the groomed run, especially when there's fresh powder. Snowbowl got about 33 inches last week.
"First chance you get when there's a lot of snow, you want to jump off the beaten path and go do something and enjoy what's going on with soft snow," said Andrews.
But he and Sgt. Dick warn--it can be dangerous. That's why they recommend you always have a buddy.
"Experts can have fatalities even doing the smallest of things, it's just being aware of your surroundings and being safe at all times," said Andrews. "This isn't something that's supposed to happen, especially with something that we enjoy the most and it's supposed to be a happy sport. And it's terrible that it happened, hopefully, it doesn't happen to anyone else."
Sgt. Dick said often, people don't realize there are avalanches and other snow dangers in Arizona, especially for backcountry skiers.
The Kachina Peaks Avalanche Center offers safety courses. Learn more here.
An investigation remains ongoing by the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office and the Coconino County Office of the Medical Examiner.