Two Missing Men Are Likely Buried in Snow

The local ski areas provide shuttle buses to transport skiers from the slopes to the bars and home again, so drunken driving is less common than drunken walking.

This isn't the first time a partier has been swallowed up by a blizzard. Just a few years ago, after a night of heavy drinking, a 20-something man separated from his girlfriend and took a shortcut home.

"He got stuck in the snow and froze overnight," said Green. "Alcohol is a rising concern for us."

In 2006, Breckenridge police transported 67 people to detoxification facilities; in 2007 that number jumped to 117.

Snow, Mixed With Alcohol

Like other college campuses, Middlebury has its share of drinking. Hanley said his patrols routinely find drunken students by the side of the road and escort them to police custody.

"Alcohol is a real concern of ours," he said. "It's not unusual to find kids sitting and lying at the side of the road drinking."

Of course, college drinking is nothing new, nor is the urge to play in the snow. But young people can underestimate the force of mother nature, especially after a rowdy night of drinking.

Brian Davidson was a freshman at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., when the record nor'easter of 1978 pummeled New England with 55 inches of snow over a three-day period.

After leaving a party on foot, Davidson and his friends decided it would be fun to leave the road and cut a few hundred yards across the field to their dorm. Soon they were struggling with a fierce wind and snow up to their chests.

"Our youthful exuberance got the best of us," said Davidson, now 48 and a high school educator. "We were literally stuck in a drift, and it was sort of like swimming in the ocean. You could see the shore, but we were running out of steam."

"Everyone stuck together and we looked for the building lights," said Davidson, who eventually made it back. "We rolled on top of the snow as much as we could."

Indeed, alcohol and wintry weather can be a deadly combination, according to Dr. Martin Schreiber, head of trauma at Oregon Health Services, who said visions of St. Bernard dogs carrying barrels of brandy to stranded skiers is a myth.

"Alcohol effectively decreases the ability of the body to maintain warmth," he said. "You actually get colder."

Alcohol Cuts Survival

Alcohol accelerates the dilation of blood vessels and heat loss. In order to survive the cold, the body needs to maintain its temperature. Anything that lowers body temperature cuts survival time.

"Generally, when people freeze to death, the effect is the body shuts down and goes to sleep," he said. "Initially, they kind of lose coordination and are likely to fall and be confused and are impossible to wake up in a coma."

Still, there are miracles, said Schreiber.

In some cases, hypothermia can save a life — skiers or skaters who have been found without a heartbeat and lowered body temperatures actually can be revived, he said.

Schreiber treated a skier who had fallen into a crevice on Mount Hood, suffered an overwhelming injury and was believed dead.

"She made a dramatic recovery and survived," he said. Still, that skier had been found after only three hours.

Michael Barbiere has now been missing for six days, and Garza has been missing for eight days.

Schreiber said his best advice to young people partying in the cold is, "Don't drink to intoxication." Or at least have a sober friend who can serve as a designated walker.

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