LAYTON, Utah — When Karen Hartley found herself stranded in freezing temperatures and mountain snow as night fell, she knew it was either dance or die.
So she danced in the dark by herself, playing remembered tunes in her head until dawn, when rescuers spotted her from a search helicopter. She was unhurt and spent Christmas Day in a hot tub, followed by dinner at Denny's.
Hartley, a 33-year-old computer software developer, had wandered outside the Powder Mountain ski area on Christmas Eve and spent more than 18 hours, cold and alone, on the mountain. The temperatures were in the single digits.
"The best thing I could think of was to keep my brain occupied by playing music in my head and dancing to it to keep warm," Hartley said Friday. "I went through all the old disco songs, show tunes, popular and current stuff, Christmas tunes and even camp songs I'd ever known.
"I sang and danced all night long, from about 6:30 p.m. to dawn. It was the only way I could think of to keep warm."
Hartley became stranded when she skied down the resort's ungroomed powder area. She reached the bottom about 3:30 p.m. and planned to ride back to the top of the mountain in a big, enclosed vehicle called a snowcat. But the snowcat wasn't running Wednesday.
Hartley said she hollered for help for a couple of hours before finally deciding that she wasn't going to be heard. She thought about trying to hike back up the mountain but was too tired to make the steep climb through deep snow.
"Besides, I figured, the ski patrol would see my car still in the lot and come looking for me," Hartley said.
About 7 p.m. she ate the lone candy bar she had with her, still thinking someone would find her.
"Not exactly the Christmas celebration I had in mind," she said.
After dancing all night, Hartley started the steep climb up.
About 9 a.m., she heard a helicopter "and thought, 'That's my ride.' "