Dave Drulard is recovering at home in Seattle after spending more than 20 hours in the Mount Baker Wilderness over the weekend. A rescuer said finding him would be like finding a needle in a haystack, but Drulard says a bit of luck intervened.
It started as a weekend away for Drulard, his wife, and his two young kids.
"The whole family went up Friday night and skied on Saturday morning on the lifts. I took off in the afternoon hoping to get a really quick backcountry lap in," he said.
Now he says his solo mission was a mistake.
"Part of it was my unfamiliarity with the general terrain that I was going into," he said.
He's been skiing as long as he can remember, but all of his experience did not prepare him for what happened.
As he lost daylight, he also lost his way.
"I ended up in the bottom of a gully, and crossing a snow bridge that collapsed," he said. "I ended up in 2-3 feet of water and basically got soaked."
With temperatures in the 20s, he found himself alone in the Mount Baker Wilderness, a nearly 120,000-acre area. A storm was coming in, and he had few supplies. His cell phone had no signal.
"There was a couple times where I just felt like I just wasn't going to have the energy to keep moving to maintain body temperature. It really felt like it could be it," said Drulard.
Back at the Mount Baker Ski area, Dave's wife had reported him missing. Search and rescue teams quickly went to work, but they did not have much information to guide them.
It wasn't until nearly 22 hours later that Drulard says a bit of luck intervened. The Bellingham Mountain Rescue Council happened to be training in the same part of the remote wilderness where Dave was desperate for help. He remembers the moment when he came face-to-face with the team.
"Just kind of like shock I think, just because I think it was probably, maybe, the first time that they rescued somebody that they didn't mean to. I dont know," he laughed.
Now back with his family, Drulard is asking how he let this happen. He says his own complacency is partly to blame. He realizes he made choices that fundamentally go against every safety precaution about the backcountry, and he nearly paid a big price for it.
"I almost lost everything," he said.
Ski experts say Drulard's experience serves as a reminder that when you head to the mountains:
-Tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back
-Know your surroundings -- the terrain and weather conditions
-Know the avalanche hazard rating
-Have a map and compass, and know how to use them.
-And go with a trusted partner.