WHITEFISH - The search for a Columbia Falls man who went missing over the weekend has entered its fifth day.
Jonathan Torgerson, 62, was reported missing Saturday after he was reportedly skiing alone in the backcountry in an out-of-bounds area near Big Mountain referred to as the Kona Area.
Search operations continued Wednesday both in the air and on the ground with more than 30 volunteer searchers.
Weather conditions continued to improve Wednesday, with clearer visibility. Below zero temperatures, high winds, snow and low visibility have previously hampered search efforts significantly both in the air and on the ground.
Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry, whose office is leading the search, says while the negative temperatures are trying on searchers, they are putting everything they've got into it.
He said that on Wednesday searchers are doing more thorough sweeps of areas that had previously been just cursory searched. So far there have been no results, but Sheriff Curry says they are confident they will find him.
"Certainly he is out there and it's our job to bring him home to his family," said Sheriff Curry.
Temperatures hit -10 in Kalispell Wednesday morning. Sheriff Curry says while the conditions are cold the sunshine helps a little bit and searchers are prepared for extreme conditions and will continue their efforts.
"There's a saying that there is no such thing as bad weather, there's only bad clothing," said Sheriff Curry. "So it's just a matter of all of our volunteers and searchers are used to being out in extreme conditions and it's just a matter of having the right number of layers and the right clothes on.
The area searchers are looking in is referred to as the Kona Area and accessed through the Flower Point lift on Whitefish Mountain Resort.
"It's a fairly popular out-of-bounds area skied by backcountry skiers. It's about 350 to 400 acres, fairly steep, pretty heavily treed," said Sheriff Curry. "Searchers today will be slowing down a little bit. In essence, going from tree to tree."
Sheriff Curry says they believe that Torgerson has an avalanche transceiver on and they're attempting to locate a signal but so far haven't found the beacon.
"It's possible the batteries have died, it's possible it wasn't turned on, it's possible we haven't been where he is," said Sheriff Curry. "So we'll continue as long as there is a possibility we are still within the battery life of that device."
Torgerson is a long time practicing physician at North Valley Hospital as well as an experienced back skier.
Searchers from Flathead and North Valley search and rescue organizations, the Nordic Ski Patrol, as well as volunteers are aiding the search. Sheriff Curry added at this point, there has been no discussion about terminating the search.
Sheriff Curry added that he's thankful for the volunteers that have stepped up to help in the search.
"Obviously we're concerned about the safety of our volunteers especially volunteers that aren't part of our organized search and rescue organizations. We certainly don't want to wind up missing anyone else."
Sheriff Curry says many people are offering to volunteer in the search and he appreciates that but for right now he says their good on personnel.
"We do have plenty of volunteers on the slopes and certainly many people have offered but at this point we're okay," Sheriff Curry concluded.