The video is jaw-dropping. From an April 2008 trip in Haines, A-K, this unlucky, albeit very fortunate, skier is swept away in an avalanche. He falls 1,500 feet in 10 seconds! He’s buried for four and half minutes, and the first rescue shot is described by Chappy, the owner of PortersTahoe.com: “I don’t think that you could’ve paid a Hollywood crew to stage something better. The fact that he could’ve been facing any 360 direction and yet he’s looking right up into the sun-filled blue sky with that first full scoop away of the shovel is borderline spiritual.”
Here’s the rest of Chappy’s post on the incident:
In April of 2008 I drove from Lake Tahoe to Haines, Alaska up the Al-Can highway through British Columbia and the Yukon with an enclosed 4-snowmobile trailer and a ton of gear. I told myself the year before after a few years of getting shut out that other than for a surgical strike, last minute type of spot open for the weekend or something….that I’d only come up with sleds from now on instead of sitting around drinking myself into oblivion on a “down day.”
Well thank God we did that because we definitely had down days again right from the get-go. The sledding up at Haines Pass is out of control good. Even staying closer to town like below Old Faithful is great. Can’t say enough about how much fun it is to ride snowmobiles up there with no trees.
So the first legit day after that main snow storm cycle that we arrived to we still went out snowmobiling one more time while another part of our group went up in the bird. Actually two groups went up in the bird, and the first group did all the normal day-after-storm-cycle snow pit and snow quality tests.
The first group decided that while the dangers remained high, that it was good to go. They all made some of the sickest pow turns in their lives I was told. The next group then – a couple hundred meters or so over – set up for their descent.
The guy in the video was the first one to drop from their group and while not a guide (he was going tail-gunner style), had a lot of Utah and AK backcountry experience. He had a Black Diamond Avalung on, but as you can tell from the video while he’s talking as he’s dropping in, it wasn’t in his mouth to start. He tried to shove it in the instant of starting to get sucked down, but it didn’t stay. It was just off to the corner of his mouth he said, and he definitely got snow / ice build up as you’ll see on the second sweep of the mouth by the guide after they get to him.
So as he drops in you can also see the sluff to the skier’s right immediately start building….and that’s actually the chute that was the intended route down. For whatever reason – well pure, unadulterated powder will do it to you – he didn’t go make some strong “skier cuts” into the upper pack to do one final snow check.
Instead he just sent it. And it didnt’ take more than a few turns out on this big shoulder above this cliff band to break loose.
This was a decent sized avalanche. 1,500 feet the dude fell in a little over 10 seconds. The crown was about 1 – 1.5m. The chute that he got sucked through to the skier’s right was flanked on either side by cliff bands that were about 30m tall. He luckily didn’t break any bones and obviously didn’t hit anything on the run out.
He was only buried for 4 and a half minutes which is incredibly short. In that time, though, you can hear his breathing already accelerate. The ruffling noise back and forth is his chest rising and falling and the noise that his jacket makes. The intermittent whimpering noise you hear is him trying to swallow and get some air. Still sends chills up the back of my neck. Oh and they located him so fast because his right glove came off just before he came completley to rest and there was an excellent visual of course.
The digging out is utterly amazing. I don’t think that you could’ve paid a Hollywood crew to stage something better. The fact that he could’ve been facing any 360 direction and yet he’s looking right up into the sun-filled blue sky with that first full scoop away of the shovel is borderline spiritual.
Simply a truly amazing video……