Skip

First person video of a skier buried, then rescued from an avalanche.
September 27, 2009 12:48 PM   Subscribe

Not for want of a glove: first person video of a skier buried, then rescued from an avalanche. He also got very lucky to be honest. In the time that he's buried, 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 since the avalung wasn't fully in his mouth and instead just to the corner of his mouth. Avalanche at 1:19. Blue sky and view of the rescuers starts at 6:07.
posted by maudlin (42 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
yeah, watched that earlier today.

4 minutes is an eternity.
posted by empath at 12:50 PM on September 27, 2009


I recommend not skipping to the rescue. Much more affecting to hang in there with him until the end.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:02 PM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


And that is why I will never ever do that.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:05 PM on September 27, 2009


That's incredible. You're watching someone effectively die and then be reborn. He was totally buried.
posted by Flashman at 1:07 PM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh my god. That was terrifying.
posted by lilac girl at 1:13 PM on September 27, 2009


As a lifetime skier who has witnessed avalanches, I just want to say that that is one ride you definitely never want to take. When the avalanche stops and the tons of snow come to a rest, it tends to compact immensely - it can become as dense as concrete.

At the absolute outside, a trapped skier has 15 minutes or so before suffocating. It's a horrible way to go and this guy was incredibly lucky. If you ever go backcountry skiing ( and I highly recommend it) always, always, always ski with other people, let someone know your itinerary before you leave, and wear a transponder/beacon. Long powder leashes aren't a bad idea either.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:16 PM on September 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Pater Aletheias, I completely agree. I added the times because I know that people have varying tolerances for suspense. It's kind of like Peter Falk in The Princess Bride: "The skier does not die at this time."
posted by maudlin at 1:19 PM on September 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


When the avalanche comes to a stop, the flowing snow forms a glove-like cast around your body. While you can still breath in small panting gasps, the snow packed around your face quickly saturates with poisonous carbon dioxide, and soon after melts and re-freezes into an ice mask that cuts of your air as effectively as a plastic bag. Respiratory arrest quickly ensues, with cardiac arrest and death soon after.
posted by empath at 1:24 PM on September 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


wow, that was intense.
posted by krautland at 1:42 PM on September 27, 2009


Makes me wonder if this is how Oetzi died.
posted by nax at 1:47 PM on September 27, 2009


That was really difficult to watch. And I don't even ski.
posted by showmethecalvino at 1:49 PM on September 27, 2009


My favourite part were the squeals of glee when he realized he was not going to die. I'm grinning like a fool right now.
posted by mek at 2:13 PM on September 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


I've been getting steadily better as a snowboarder these last few years. One of my friends is an instructor, and I've skied with him the last couple of Easters, so we're doing more off-piste stuff - I guess nowhere near as remote as what these guys were doing, but still. I'm aware of the need for transponders and training, but have to admit to having been a little bit blasé.

Definitely doing a course etc. next time I'm anywhere near a slope. They should show this video at safety briefings, loop it in shops in place of the vids of sick air, huge pow etc. How quickly it changes from best run ever to the snow just cracking underneath his skis is scary.
posted by djgh at 2:17 PM on September 27, 2009


NO THANK YOU
posted by tristeza at 2:21 PM on September 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


Well that was far more intense than I was expecting.

Have to say, the most affecting part for me was him wriggling his hands, still stuck upward, as they work to get him out.

I cannot stress these next sentences enough; that in and of itself to be unburied in ONLY 4:28 is miraculous if you have any understanding of being caught in an avalanche and what it takes to be found. It could literally be some kind of "world record" just on how good the guide and supporting cast of other skiers was in getting to him.

Yeah, this is flat out amazing. I wonder how much of a difference that last-moment lost glove made. Maybe the difference.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:37 PM on September 27, 2009


Hearing the radio must have been driving him insane!

Pro tip: don't use wrist straps when skiing in avvy territory, once the ground opens up from beneath you want to release yourself from anything that can drag you down. Funny part is when they teach you to "swim against the avalanche", every inch of snow ahead of you is an inch that won't be on top of you, but I just can't picture it happening.
posted by furtive at 2:47 PM on September 27, 2009


I learned a new word from this: avalung. This skier apparently just barely got the corner of the avalung into his mouth during the avalanche.
posted by smrtsch at 2:52 PM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


It appears he had an AvaLung* with him at the time, but although they says it wasn't in his mouth when he got sucked in and was off to the side of his mouth when he was buried, Black Diamond is using this video as an example of how the AvaLung can save you. Seems a bit sketch based on what's written in the blog.


*AvaLung is a tube that allows you to pull in air from away from your head and release exhaled CO2 at hip level so that your breath doesn't melt the snow around your face causing the wall of ice that will suffocate you in normal circumstances.
posted by furtive at 2:56 PM on September 27, 2009


That has to be one of the most incredible videos I've ever seen. Pater Aletheias has it right. This video must be watched the whole way through. I found my breathing getting faster as the skier's did. As someone who skis in the backcountry a lot, being buried like this is certainly up there on my list of fears.

Like any avalanche incident, this video shows things done wrong, such as skiing serious avalanche terrain the day after a big storm storm cycle--the poster of the video says the crown line was 1-1.5m, which is big enough to never want to be caught in it. The specific terrain features he was skiing contributed to it too. A convex roll, with the outer layers of snow under tension, is much more likely to release than the a chute, where the snow is mostly under compression. The video comments mention how he was instructed to do a few ski cuts at the top of the chute, and wait for his slough, which you can see to the skier's left, running down the chute he was supposed to ski. Instead he takes off down the exposed shoulder, no doubt because it must have been some of the most amazing skiing he's ever had.

And of course, that's where it turns to shit. I've never been fully buried, so I can only imagine what it's like; I have friends it has happened to, and not all of them were dug out in time. One acquaintance described being almost certain he was going to die, as an ice mask was rapidly forming, making it increasingly hard to breathe, until he felt a hard metal probe jab him in the ribs, which meant he was going to live.

The rescuers do an excellent job of locating and digging him out. The speed that the rescue was accomplished is a testament to to the effectiveness of good training and regular practice.

Thanks maudlin, this is the post of the year, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 3:09 PM on September 27, 2009 [12 favorites]


Wow that was powerful.

Also I am never, ever going to do that.
posted by jcruelty at 3:11 PM on September 27, 2009


There's a few minutes in there, right after about 6:08, where I really want them to give the poor bastard a glove already!
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:13 PM on September 27, 2009


There is something fundamentally different between those of you who read this post and then clicked on the link, and those who, like me, started to hyperventilate at the mere description and thought NO FUCKING WAY AM I WATCHING THAT.
posted by HotToddy at 3:20 PM on September 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


Hyperventilate, yeah, but in a good way. I too had a smile on my face when he first saw daylight. (I also cheer inside when movie good guys win, but this is more powerful.)
posted by Hardcore Poser at 4:27 PM on September 27, 2009


Blue screen of death
posted by Rumple at 4:47 PM on September 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


That's one of the few times I've been moved to almost-tears on the internet. Have you ever seen footage of someone actually dying, conscious that they are dying and then rescued? In a sport you love? Wow. fucking wow. He owes his friends his life.

Minimum avalanche reading for anyone conisdering going off-piste. You should train with certified programs, do search drills regularly,, go with a group of knowledgable guides, carry tranceivers, shovels and poles.

If you're a weekend warrior who doesn't ski (and train) a lot, you should not be off-piste during any kind of avalanche condition other than "green". You not only put your own life at risk, but your potential resucuer's lives too.

If you're going to get an avalung, get an abspack which incorporates one along with airbags (*note: neat physics alert). Here's where to buy them.
posted by lalochezia at 5:00 PM on September 27, 2009


Lucky motherfucky.
posted by jewzilla at 5:02 PM on September 27, 2009


Holy mackeral, that's intense.
posted by jquinby at 5:10 PM on September 27, 2009


It's probably a good thing this video doesn't have an olfactory channel.
posted by DU at 5:23 PM on September 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Absolutely terrifying. You can see the fractures forming as he starts to ski.

This exact thing happened to a friend of mine in Colorado. He survived, after he was given CPR and helicoptered out, but he's now a quadriplegic. I almost couldn't watch this video and I'm still not sure I should have.
posted by bondcliff at 5:45 PM on September 27, 2009


Expanding on what lalochezia says above: this video is a great reminder of why backcountry skiing requires serious training and practice in self-rescue techniques. If buried, your only hope of survival rests with the other members of your party. This is why you ski dangerous slopes one at a time.

Of course, it's better to not get buried in the first place. Unfortunately, the best slopes and snow for skiing correlate pretty heavily with the most danger of avalanches. The temptation to head out the day after a storm is pretty powerful, and it can overwhelm prudence; this is especially true for people with enough experience to know how to minimize risk with terrain selection.

Any avalanche education is incomplete without understanding the psychology involved. On a day when the initial decision is to stick to safer slopes, a skewed sample and confirmation bias can compound one another and a party may decide that seeing no activity on safer terrain may be indicative of greater stability than actually exists, leading to risky decisions that were initially, and more wisely, ruled out. Equally dangerous is the tendency to stick to the plan even after conditions present warnings that conditions are worse than initially presumed. It can take a lot of restraint for even an experienced group to turn back when warning signs begin to indicate that the initial objective may be too ambitious for the stability of the snowpack.

While I call the decision to ski the day after a storm cycle as a "thing done wrong", I am by no means innocent of this. Last year, some friends and I did a heli-drop the day after a small spring storm worked its way through. The heli-ski outfits in the Whistler area don't operate their own birds, but contract out to Blackcomb Helicopters, who will give prepared groups one-way trips in the early morning. Just sign a waver, and they put you down where you want. The conditions were not ideal. The new storm snow was being warmed on any solar aspect, and pretty much everything that could slide, was. We picked the safest terrain down, but every member of our group cut at least one slab. Fortunately, the storm snow wasn't very deep, and we altered our plans to stick to the safest terrain possible.

One last point worth mentioning is dangerous heuristics, such as the tendency to view slopes already skied as safe. Look at the viewer's right of the crown line in this photo (taken during the aforementioned trip), and you can see it follows the tracks of a skier who had previously skied the same slope without incident. Of course, this is a small slide in relatively safe terrain, very unlikely to even seriously injure the skier. This is why terrain selection is so important. A slide that size above a cliff, or a hollow where a skier could be trapped and snow piled on top could have been lethal. In the terrain pictured, however, the slide just ran out into the flats, where the debris piled no more than a meter deep.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 6:25 PM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Damn. I skipped ahead to the avalanche and then to the rescue, which was enough to freak me out. Then I went back and watched the whole thing straight through - which I think is going to give me nightmares. I don't know what I thought being buried alive would be like, but that just fucked with my head.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 6:51 PM on September 27, 2009


maudlin, thanks for posting this. I live in Colorado, and have many friends who backcountry ski, snowboard, mountaineer, hike, hut trips, you name it. I posted this to my Facebook feed in the hopes that going into the new snow season, those who might not always prioritise safety ahead of the good line every single time, might take that couple extra seconds after watching this.
posted by lonefrontranger at 7:13 PM on September 27, 2009


I see dead people.
vectr at 2:56 PM on September 27 [+] [!]

Whoops... wrong thread.
vectr at 2:57 PM on September 27 [+] [!]


I actually laughed at your "joke". Your clarification made it even funnier.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:58 PM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I'm sorry, but if you're going to persist in making silly noises, I'm gonna have to bury you again."
posted by markkraft at 2:03 AM on September 28, 2009


Jesus fuck.

I had to skip ahead, but his whimpers were absolutely heartbreaking.
posted by Phire at 2:40 AM on September 28, 2009


Thanks hugely for this post - I work in resort for a ski holiday company, every winter I end up discussing / debating / arguing with many more people than I would like to who are blasé about the risks of avalanches and ignorant of how to avoid and survive them. This is a great piece of ammo to add to the portfolio of stats and scare story links I keep . . .

A good online starting resource for avalanche awareness, kit and skills
Info on avalanche deaths in France last season - all 28 of them
posted by protorp at 5:19 AM on September 28, 2009


While you can still breath in small panting gasps, the snow packed around your face quickly saturates with poisonous carbon dioxide, and soon after melts and re-freezes into an ice mask that cuts of your air as effectively as a plastic bag

Shit, I never thought about that, but it makes perfect sense. Your struggling breath effectively helps make the snow more lethal.

The truly incredible thing, already mentioned a million times, is just how incredibly fast he was dug out. Can you imagine how terrifying and desperate it would be to hear your friends looking for you but have no way of getting their attention. Christ.

There was a video making the rounds a while back that showed a skier actually out-ski a full-on avalanche. Haven't been able to find it because this vid is all over the blogosphere currently.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:08 AM on September 28, 2009


Excellent video, should be mandatory viewing for anyone who is in avalanche country. It certainly made me stop taking fresh air for granted (however briefly). Are there any other videos like this out there? Like POV accidents with miraculous rescues?
posted by Horatius at 9:38 AM on September 28, 2009


This is a short documentary video ideal for those who are seriously considering (or are already) venturing into avalanche territory.
posted by secondhand at 12:10 PM on September 28, 2009


In January 2005 my brother and his group of 14 friends went on their annual heli-skiing trip outside of Revelstoke, B.C. With a guide in tow they encountered an avalanche. One friend died -- he was buried and broke his neck. Another friend broke both legs. They cancelled the following year's trip, but are once again at their traditional heli-skiing vacation.

As a result of the accident, another friend wrote this Outside magazine article:
I Was an Avalanche Test Dummy -- "In the name of science, a veteran skier braves darkness, claustrophobia, and deadly cold to find out what it's like to be trapped under the snow."
posted by ericb at 12:38 PM on September 28, 2009


ericb: "In January 2005 my brother and his group of 14 friends went on their annual heli-skiing trip outside of Revelstoke, B.C. With a guide in tow they encountered an avalanche. One friend died -- he was buried and broke his neck. Another friend broke both legs. They cancelled the following year's trip, but are once again at their traditional heli-skiing vacation.

As a result of the accident, another friend wrote this Outside magazine article:
I Was an Avalanche Test Dummy -- "In the name of science, a veteran skier braves darkness, claustrophobia, and deadly cold to find out what it's like to be trapped under the snow."
"

.

Sorry to hear about your bros friend. The only good thing you can say about it is it sounds as if he died instantly rather than suffering the slow death of an avalanche victim. I commend your friend for his willingness to spend 52 minutes buried in snow with probes up his ass, down his throat and monitors taped all over his body for the sake of helping others.

THe original subject of the FPP video was very lucky to be "only" be buried for a little less than 6 minutes.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:04 PM on September 28, 2009


In about 15 seconds my brother and other friends switched their transceivers to receive, located Steve and dug him out in under five minutes. Yeah -- he did die instantly. Loss of a great guy.
posted by ericb at 2:27 PM on September 28, 2009


« Older I prefer to think of it as a 'trolley opportunity'   |   Food Fights and Timeline Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post