Lost ski instructor told friends he didn't need ski patrol's help

MOUNT HOOD - Friends of a ski instructor found dead on Mount Hood on Sunday night say he told them he could make it back without the ski patrol's help.

Search and rescue crews found the body of 23-year-old Russell Tiffany of Las Vegas in a creek in an out-of-bounds ski area just west of Ski Bowl a few hundred feet from Highway 26. Investigators say he had been drinking and got lost after skiing off on his own.

According to deputies with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, it appears Tiffany drowned and suffered from hypothermia. He may have also had an infection in his lung that may have made him more vulnerable to the hypothermia.

"It didn't hit me until just a couple hours ago. It's just so quiet up here and Russell was one of those people you could just hear him from across the hallway, hear him talking or hear him laughing about something," said Kayla Buckles, a friend of Tiffany, at Timberline on Monday.

The flag at Timberline Lodge flew at half-staff in honor of the Timberline ski instructor who'd become family to his co-workers this winter season.

"It's a difficult day, but we're working through it, and we're getting through it with hugs and support from one another in the family at Timberline," said Bobbie Kipp, who worked with Tiffany.

Kipp helps run the ski school and said she's told every employee one by one that their friend was found dead - lost skiing with a couple other Timberline co-workers.

Deputies said Tiffany went out on his own, though, and got turned around. But said the experienced skier thought he was going to be OK.

"They got a call from him at about eight, saying he was lost, but he didn't know where he was and they were like, 'Do you want us to call ski patrol?' He's like, 'No, I think I can find my way out.' That was the last we heard of him," Buckles said. "I was really close to him. He was an amazing guy. I think he could have gone pro one day. Like, he was amazing. It's really sad that he's gone."