Odman Schmalzried

Loved ones find snowmobiler After troopers end hunt, man turns up in 4 feet of snow .


Early Sunday morning, as many families were sending children off with baskets to hunt for Easter eggs, friends and relatives of a Wasilla snowmachiner were organizing a different kind of search. .

After four hours of probing the snow with 10- and 15-foot poles, they found what they were looking for. Odman Schmalzried, 40, who died in an avalanche the day before, was buried beneath four feet of snow.

They found him near the toe of the slide not far from his snowmachine, according to friends of the family. Alaska State Troopers had called off their search for Schmalzried late Saturday because they feared bad weather would make searching on Sunday difficult and dangerous. Troopers also said they don't have the resources to carry on an extended search in the remote valley south of Eureka Lodge

But family members couldn't stay home knowing Schmalzried was out there. So they organized a search party that met early Sunday at the lodge, a popular snowmachine outpost at Mile 120 of the Glenn Highway. After gathering gear and fixing a broken snowmachine, searchers started a slow and somber procession to the area of the slide

Around 4 p.m., they found Schmalzried's body in an area that searchers had probed the night before

"It was bittersweet to find him," said Roger Sanders, a friend of Schmalzried who spent all Sunday searching. "I think everyone is still waiting for a miracle. We were all Odman's friend, and he would have done the same for us." .

Schmalzried was born in Alaska, graduated from Service High School and lived in Wasilla. The construction worker had two children - a 7-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy - and had remarried last summer. "He loved snowmachines and to have fun," said a relative, Brian Donoho. "He was just a really good guy.

Donoho, Sanders and other family members expressed frustration Sunday that troopers weren't there to help. "They called this thing way too early," Donoho said. "We didn't want to wait until spring. He was in four feet of snow when we found him." .

Troopers cited a number of reasons for calling off the search. Forecasters had predicted bad weather, for one. They also thought Schmalzried might be buried in as much as 30 feet of snow

"I think they were under the impression that the body was buried a lot deeper than it was," trooper spokesman Tim DeSpain said