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Missing Alpine Meadows snowboarder found dead

December 30, 2010 |  1:49 pm

The search for a 25-year-old snowboarder missing since Tuesday afternoon near Alpine Meadows Ski Resort in the Lake Tahoe area came to an end Thursday when her body was discovered in a tree well.

The Sacramento Bee reported that rescue helicopter crews spotted the body of Shawnte Marie Willis of Tahoma, Calif., Thursday morning on a part of the mountain that previously had been off-limits to rescue crews because of inclement weather.

"The news is tragic," Placer County sheriff's Lt. Jeff Ausnow said in a news conference, adding that authorities believe Willis might have hit a tree while snowboarding.

Ausnow described the U.S. Forest Service land where Willis was found as "treacherous" and said 80- to 100-mph winds had been blowing there. "The weather would not allow us to get there," he said.

Search and rescue efforts were hampered by high winds and low visibility that prevented the use of air- and ground-search vehicles, and ground search crews were called off Wednesday because of the threat of avalanches. Blowing snow had also covered any tracks.

-- Kelly Burgess