The boss of a Queenstown snowboarder rescued off Coronet Peak on Tuesday night says he’s “understandably a bit shaken”.
Paul Hignett, a manager at Millbrook Resort’s Millhouse restaurant, went missing near the Coronet Peak ski area at about 3pm.
Hignett, with fellow Millbrook staffers, got separated from his companions in the snow field’s Greengates area and failed to meet them at the bottom of the run.
His companions raised the alarm at the end of the day when he still hadn’t shown up – a helicopter pilot using night vision found him well outside the ski area boundary at about 11pm.
Millbrook operations manager Brian Howie says it felt like a very long eight hours before the news came through that he’d been found alive.
Howie spoke to Hignett yesterday.
“He’s understandably a bit shaken but he’s dealt with it a hell of a lot better than I think I would have.
“The emotion at the moment is absolute relief he’s been found and is safe.”
When Hignett’s companions raised the alarm, Coronet Peak ski area staff immediately launched its missing persons procedure and ski patrollers carried out a full sweep of the ski area.
A statement from Coronet Peak ski area manager Hamish McCrostie says Hignett was found halfway down Dirty Four Creek towards Skippers Canyon, well outside the ski area boundary.
Hignett was cold but in good spirits.
McCrostie says Hignett was extremely happy to see the helicopter when it landed on a precipice above him.
“He came running up to the chopper. He was very lucky it all ended so well.”
Conditions on the mountain were cloudy with fog and low visibility at the time he become separated.
It cleared in the evening enabling the helicopter to operate. It was not snowing at the time.