Missing snowboarder found safe; sheriff says he was drunk

[Independent Record]

Tom Reid, director of Great Divide volunteer ski patrol, comes down Hiballer at Great Divide ski area.

A 20-year-old snowboarder was charged with underage possession of alcohol after he became disoriented at a ski area west of Helena and search and rescue crews were called in to look for him.

Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said Tristan Colwell of Helena was last seen at about 2:20 p.m. Tuesday at Great Divide Ski Area. Crews at the ski area launched a search on foot and snowmobile, but recognizing the coming darkness, called at 3:41 p.m. for Lewis and Clark Search and Rescue to assist.

“It was admirable for them to ask for help. I’m very pleased with the response from the ski hill,” Dutton said.

As the searchers organized around 4:30 p.m. a member of the ski area crew following tracks discovered Colwell, who Dutton estimates was 2 to 3 miles from the area boundary.

“He had been walking and got off trail and kept going,” Dutton said. “He was a substantial distance from the ski area, and had placed his snowboard in the middle of the road and got under a tree to stay warm."

Colwell was told to stay in place, and the crew member who found him dropped down to a ranch and called in the location. Search and rescue was able to snowmobile to the location and transport him out, Dutton said.

Colwell was cold but not hypothermic.

When interviewing him, Dutton says law enforcement noticed a “strong smell of alcohol” and cited Colwell for underage possession.

“He was intoxicated and off on the wrong trail, but I give him credit because he did not lose his sense of survival,” Dutton said.

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