SEATTLE (AP) – A skier rescued after four frigid days and nights in the mountains with no food was happy to be alive Monday but waiting to learn whether he would lose any fingers or toes to frostbite.

“He’s got some extremity damage, and only time will tell if they’ll have to amputate,” King County Sheriff’s Lt. Jim Fuda said. “But he’s in great spirits and knows he’s lucky to be alive. He was sitting up, talking and lucid, when I saw him this morning.”

Dan Witkowski, 25, an extreme skier from Ellensburg, had not been seen since New Year’s Eve until spotters in a helicopter noticed his tracks Sunday near Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascade Range.

Witkowski remained in serious condition Monday.

Witkowski told Fuda that while skiing out-of-bounds at the Alpental ski area last Wednesday, he jumped off some ledges and knew he wouldn’t be able to climb back up. Instead, he kept heading down the mountain, paying little attention to what direction he was facing and moving farther and farther from civilization. The longest he stopped to rest was two hours, Fuda said.

“He knew he had to keep moving to stay warm, and he felt like that was the right way to go,” Fuda said.

Meanwhile, Witkowski’s friends had reported him missing on Thursday, and scores of people were looking for him. After a foot of snow fell Saturday and the temperature dropped to zero that night, they had all but given up hope; still, 40 people searched Sunday, hoping the clear weather would give them one more shot at finding him alive.

Witkowski’s father, Robert, 57, said he had been trying to persuade his family to “let go” and accept that Dan was dead.

The rescue “was like turning a page in a book and you didn’t know there was another page left,” Robert Witkowski said.

told The Seattle Times.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.