Skier Survives Full Burial in Avalanche

Emerges unharmed with help from companion

Dec 19, 2014
Outside Magazine
avalanche survival alaska chugach national forest turnagain pass

It's unusual to survive full burial in an avalanche, but the skier was able to dig himself out with the help of a companion.    Paxson Woelber/Flickr

A backcountry skier walked away unharmed after triggering an avalanche Thursday afternoon at Turnagain Pass in Chugach National Forest.

According to Alaska Dispatch News, the 350-foot-wide avalanche slid downhill for about 1,000 feet and completely buried the skier, who wasn’t named. Though his head was about a foot beneath the snow, the man could move his arm enough to uncover his head. His companion, who had skied to the side of the avalanche, helped dig him out.

“They were pretty rattled,” avalanche forecaster John Fitzgerald told the Dispatch News. “But they are regulars up there [in Turnagain Pass] and they realize the gravity of being caught and buried.” The National Forest had posted an avalanche warning for the day, but at least 20 skiers and snowboarders were on the mountain, Fitzgerald said.

The chances of surviving a complete burial in an avalanche are especially low. Many of the skiers who have been so lucky in the past few years (including one whose ordeal was caught on film during a car commercial shoot) owe it to avalanche airbags. The pack keeps the wearer close to the surface, increasing the chances of surviving a slide.

Brush up on the basics of avalanche safety with Outside’s guide to the three most critical emergency tools.

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