A skilled snowboarder with years of experience in the Alps and her native Norway, 20-year-old Julie Abrahamsen calmly followed the group of skiers out of bounds on the backside of Whistler’s Blackcomb glacier.
But she quickly lost the group ahead of her and when she looked back, the people skiing behind her had also disappeared.
“Positive and confident,” she said she kept on a track that she thought would bring her back to the ski area.
That was late Wednesday morning.
For three days, she said, she slogged roughly five kilometres through heavy, wet snow, taking a “little swim” into a glacier-fed river and pushing rocks together in tree wells to make rudimentary shelter during the frigid nights.
Early Saturday afternoon, search and rescue crews found her stunned and dehydrated about 1,600 metres up an area of rugged terrain near Upper Wedge Creek and airlifted her to a nearby clinic.
“It was good that the helicopter came when it came because I was still far away from civilization,” she said Sunday evening from the cabin she shares in Whistler with nine other roommates hailing from Denmark, Australia, Britain and Canada. “I just walked every day trying to get home.”
After a short stay in the clinic, where the ravenous Ms. Abrahamsen requested a ham-and-cheese submarine sandwich, she was able to go home Saturday night, where she relaxed on the couch and told everyone her harrowing tale, roommate Jordan Jurss said.
“It was luck, dedication and just how close the household was together linked with her strong will and survival instincts that really made sure this wasn’t a corpse recovery,” said Mr. Jurss, who added that the search and rescue teams and ski patrol did an exemplary job in their search.
Initially her roommates weren’t that worried when she didn’t return from a day snowboarding on the mountain, because a temporary disappearance isn’t that strange in the resort-filled town, Mr. Jurss said.
When Ms. Abrahamsen failed to come home after a second night and still wasn’t returning text and Facebook messages from them or her father Knut Abrahamsen back in Norway, the house became worried, Mr. Jurss said.
“In Whistler you never question if someone’s gone for one night, maybe two nights,” Mr. Jurss said. “We know of people who’ve just been missing for three or four days, they come back and go ‘Oh, we’ve been in Vancouver.’”
Last Friday morning, friends working at the mountain confirmed that Ms. Abrahamsen’s pass had last been scanned on the Glacier Express chairlift Wednesday at 11:04 a.m. and the house immediately grasped the gravity of her situation and phoned ski patrol and the RCMP, Mr. Jurss said.
That set off an intense search and rescue effort that was suspended by nightfall Friday night and culminated Saturday around 1:30 p.m. when a helicopter crew spotted Ms. Abrahamsen’s footprints. RCMP said Ms. Abrahamsen was “in cold, but good, condition” after she survived three frigid nights with temperatures hovering around 0 in the backcountry.
Her father told Norway’s TV 2 that when he first had confirmation she was missing Friday morning “it was the worst day of my life.”
Ms. Abrahamsen said she is “almost back to normal now” and said she will never go out of bounds alone again.
“You should actually care about the mountain rules when you hiking or go for a trip … be prepared and be prepared to stay longer,” she said after her “surreal” episode.
“You can say it’s a miracle, because I don’t want to think about it if I was to stay there today.”
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect age for the missing snowboarder. This version has been corrected.