At 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 8, 1994 Ann Marie Potton boarded the Whistler Village Gondola for an afternoon of solace and stunning alpine views — no one saw her again.
The energetic 24 year old was last seen hiking toward Whistler Mountain's peak, but the mystery surrounding her disappearance came to an abrupt close last Saturday when a Whistler Mountain employee spotted what appeared to be a human body at the bottom of Whistler Bowl.
Dental records confirmed the identity of the remains Tuesday — Ann Marie Potton.
Potton's discovery brings to a close one of the biggest and most exhaustive searches in the recent history of the resort.
Since she went missing on that crisp October day last fall, the Potton family, Ann Marie's friends and a dedicated group of local police and search and rescue personnel have combed the area for clues to Potton's whereabouts.
According to Whistler RCMP Cpl. Darryl Little a Whistler Mountain employee spotted the body at about 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon after noticing increased animal activity in a section of Lower Whistler Bowl below the Whistler Glacier. Further investigations revealed a body was there and the remains were airlifted off the mountain Sunday.
"The pathologist is prepared to say the death is consistent with exposure complicated by a compound fracture of the lower right leg," Little says.
Little adds it appears Potton may have fallen while trying to navigate her way down the steep face, which was covered with snow at the time. Hampered by a broken leg, Potton managed to make it a short distance down the hill where she succumbed to sub-zero temperatures and 10 centimetres of snow which fell that night.
Rescue efforts were hampered by the fresh snow and the inability of anyone to determine the exact route Potton planned on taking off the mountain.
Her validated pass and a photo taken by a French doctor that showed her on the path to the peak were the only clues searchers had to go on. Rumours of abduction flew around the valley as helicopters scoured the sides of steep mountains from Singing Pass to the south side of Whistler Mountain.
Human crews and dog teams searched Whistler Mountain in an intensive mission that lasted until Sunday Oct. 16, 1994 when rising snowpack and the lack of clues forced the search to end.
The Potton family returned this spring and the search began again in earnest, June 10-11, but no clues were revealed until the snow under the Whistler Glacier retreated in the past few weeks.