According to ABC 7, a backcountry skier was swept off of a cliff, onto U.S. 550, and buried under several feet of snow by an avalanche in San Juan County, CO. The man was then rescued by his skiing partner and a Silverton Avalanche Professional that happened to be there. The avalanche and rescue occurred on Monday along Coal Bank Pass south of Silverton.
The skiers were trying to make their way back to U.S. 550, when one of the skiers got to close to the edge of a cliff, which triggered an avalanche that took him off the 25-foot cliff and swept him onto the road. His partner jumped off a 15-foot cliff, headed down the mountain, and located the buried skier using his beacon. While attempting to dig his friend out, Mike Barney, an avalanche professional, happened to come upon the slide and aided the skier in digging his friend out.
“It was a big relief, because when I showed up, I added up the minutes of how long this guy had possibly been under the snow. And when I was able to clear his airway with my hand and I asked if he could breathe and he said, ‘Yes,’ in a clear voice, I was relieved,” stated Mike Barney in an interview with Denver 7.
The trapped skier used an Avalung device, which is a piece of equipment used to aid backcountry skiers with breathing in the case that they are buried by an avalanche. This device likely saved his life, without it, he would’ve been without oxygen for too long. Colorado experienced huge snowfall totals this week, which is attributed to the cause of this avalanche. Avalanche dangers remains “considerable” in the northern and southern San Juan regions through Friday at the earliest.