A 23-year-old woman was critically injured Friday evening when she crashed into rocks while sliding in the snow on a body board at the summit of Mauna Kea, according to the Hawaii County Fire Department.
Maunakea Rangers brought the woman to the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy, also known as Hale Pohaku, where she was treated by a waiting medic unit from the Army’s Pohakuloa Training Area. She was transferred to a county ambulance and taken to the Hilo Medical Center.
The incident was reported at 6:38 p.m., with fire, medic and rescue crews from Pohakuloa responding with seven personnel and seven county firefighters joining the effort. The first unit was on scene at 7:03 p.m.
The woman’s identity and other details, including a more precise location of the incident, were not available.
The Maunakea Rangers referred questions to the University of Hawaii, whose Office of Maunakea Management is the primary agency responsible for managing the Maunakea Science Reserve. Officials could not be reached to comment.
Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in Hawaii, has long attracted skiers, snowboarders, sledders and others who want to frolic in its intermittent snowfalls.
A snowstorm blanketed the mountain last week. National Weather Service meteorologist Genki Kino said the temperature at the summit was decreasing quickly at 6 p.m. Friday, and “if there were any soft areas, it got hard with refreeze” and conditions were “pretty icy,” with winds blowing at 20 mph, likely making the rescue difficult.
In February 2019, when a video was posted showing three people skiing and snowboarding on the mountain through bare dirt and rocks, the Office of Maunakea Management condemned the actions as disrespectful to Native Hawaiians and others who consider the mountain sacred.
At that time, officials acknowledged that skiing and snowboarding occurred on the south side of Puu Poliahu, hidden from the view of rangers.
Toby Kravet, president of the Hawaii Ski Club, said the skiing atop Mauna Kea was the major reason for the club’s founding in 1953, but now “is history.” Instead, the club coordinates ski trips to destinations outside Hawaii.
“From what I understand, we stopped going up Mauna Kea because of the logistics, dangers and the fact that not everyone was up to the physical challenges required,” he said.
“I get from six to 10 requests per year for information on skiing Mauna Kea. Because of misleading information on the Internet, some even think we have a ski resort up there.”