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Rescuers search for California snowboarder

TAHOE CITY, Calif., Dec. 29 (UPI) -- More than a dozen rescuers fought 35 inches of new snow in their ongoing search for a missing California snowboarder, authorities say.

The snowshoe-wearing searchers scoured an area of Lake Tahoe in Placer County called Wolverine Bowl where 25-year-old Shawnte Willis became separated from her boyfriend Tuesday 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, KCRA-TV, Sacramento, reported.

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Blizzard conditions and deep snow prevented the use of snowmobiles, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Five search crews fighting 120 mile-per-hour winds in whiteout conditions searched for the veteran athlete, but a Placer County sheriff's spokesman said although she may have gone over the back side of Wolverine Bowl at the Alpine Meadows ski resort she had several factors in her favor.

"She is known to be an intermediate-level snowboarder and she was dressed appropriately: she has a helmet, proper gear, warm clothing and so forth. She does know this area; she snowboards this area quite a bit so hopefully she is familiar with the terrain and hopefully she is trying to make her way back and will cross paths with the search teams," said Placer County Sheriff's Department Capt. Jeff Ausnow.

Willis has a history of epilepsy, but her cousin, Don Hubbs said he is hopeful Willis may have used her snowboard to build a snow cave as shelter from the storm, The Sacramento Bee reported.

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"That's what I'm thinking," Hubbs said. "She should know to dig a hole and hunker down."

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