Skier Rescued 6 Hours After Being Buried to His Neck by Avalanche in Switzerland

Luke Guilford | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Skier rescued in Switzerland
With only his arm free, he waves down the helicopter. Photo Credit: The Sun

Deep in the Liddes region of Switzerland, a skier was buried up to his neck in compact snow with only one arm free. Night had fallen and hypothermia was setting in for the young man trapped helplessly in the mountains. Air Glaciers set out to find the missing person via helicopter, where after six hours of being buried, the man was spotted by an eagle-eye of a crew.

The heavy, compact snow from the avalanche prevented the man from being able to escape on his own. Fortunately, his head and one arm remained above the surface of the snow, as this was how he caught the eye of the search and rescue team. In The Independent video below, you can see the man waving his arm to alert the rescue team.

The full report of the February 8th rescue mission can be found on the Air Glaciers website. The original report is in French, so I will throw down the Google Translate version below.

“Yesterday at nightfall, a crew from Air-Glacier was mobilized to search for a missing person. The alarm fell at 5.41 p.m. for a young man who had gone on a ski tour that morning in the Liddes region and who did not return.

Luckily, although he left alone, he had informed his family of his route, which he had already taken several times, as well as his planned return at the beginning of the afternoon. On the way, he had even sent a photo of his passage over a pass, the last clue to his journey of the day which notably enabled the crew to reduce the search perimeter.

The intervention team, made up of a pilot, a paramedic, a lifeguard guide and a second guide from the region who had come to help, first went to the car park where the unlucky had left his car to make sure he hadn’t returned in the meantime. The search then began by flying over the route he had announced to his family, until finally a fresh trace of his passage could be seen.

Dropped to the ground, the area guide immediately set off to follow the visible tracks, as the helicopter resumed its aerial search of the nearby corridors. It was there that, going up a corridor, our pilot was able to detect a sign of life in a large pile of blocks of snow, by the simple light of the searchlight in the dark night. Still conscious, although buried up to his neck for more than 6 hours in compact snow, the survivor had only his head and one of his arms out of the casting, allowing him to signal to the helicopter at the time of his passage.

Our lifeguard guide was then immediately dropped off with him to begin his extraction while waiting for the second guide to join them. The three people were finally evacuated by winch (length of more than 30m) from the small valley in which they were.

A story with a happy ending: the hiker, safe and sound, was airlifted unharmed, with mild hypothermia.”

This scenario is a perfect example of why you should let someone know your adventure plans before you head out. The skier notified his family of the route he was planning and even sent pictures of his whereabouts throughout the day. This was crucial information for the rescue team as they were able to pinpoint his location much more quickly.

Air Glaciers Rescue
Air Glaciers’ team at work. Photo Credit: Air Glaciers

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