Searchers have found the bodies of three snowboarders missing since early December in the Cascades near Crystal Mountain, a skiing area northeast of Mount Rainier in Washington state's Cascade Range.

Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer tells The New Tribune of Tacoma that friends of the three took advantage of melting snow and searched Saturday in the area where they disappeared.

Law-enforcement officials plan to airlift the bodies from the remote site Sunday.

The three missing men were 26-year-old Kevin Carter, 29-year-old Devlin Williams, and 41-year-old Phillip Hollins, all of the Seattle area.

Autopsies have not been performed, but searchers theorize the three were killed by an avalanche. Heavy, wet snow caused dozens of avalanches in the area last year.

Search teams covered the area without success for a week after the victims disappeared, but Troyer said avalanches covered up much of the terrain, and further searches posed dangers to the search parties.