A snowboarder in Hakuba is lucky to be alive, after a group of skiers in the Happo backcountry came across avalanche debris and decided to check the scene for potential burials. After picking up a signal from the man’s beacon, they dug him out from a metre beneath the surface – just as he was beginning to lose consciousness. The man then made a swift recovery and was in a strong enough condition to snowboard back to safety.
According to a Facebook post from Esther Dubrovsky, a member of the rescue party, the rider had been with a group of friends but had become separated.
“…they’d lost sight of him as he dropped down and didn’t even see the slide. They told us later they’d debated hiking back up over a ridge to go look elsewhere. But they decided to keep heading in the original direction where they thought he’d gone. They eventually saw us digging him out and rushed down to greet him upon his revival.”
“Very lucky we decided to follow protocol and switch our transceivers to search mode. The tracks in the second picture to the right were from a group that skied past us while we were zig zagging down searching.”
Hundreds of Facebook users have praised Dubrovsky and her group’s efforts in the rescue.
“This would be a good PSA that equipment is essential but not sufficient. His beacon saved him here, but only because of extreme luck that you all happened to show up at exactly the right time, AND took the time to do a search”, said one user.
“Amazing work, a man was able to go home to his family because of you all”, said another.
Two takeaways: check avalanches in commonly skied areas, and always keep your friends in sight when skiing in the…
The slide took place on January 27 in the Happo backcountry on a day where two other avalanches in Hakuba were reported, including a partial burial.
Local guide Damian Banwell had earlier in the day posted a warning to all backcountry riders, pointing to a series of recent snowfalls and the major possibility of avalanches forming in large, steep bowls and on sun crusts.
“From a guiding perspective, I’d be taking my customers on ridges, smaller slopes, forested terrain, and larger areas that have many ‘islands of safety’ and lots of options. I’d be avoiding large open steep bowls above terrain traps. And avoiding trigger points like convex areas and broken convoluted terrain. I’d be using micro terrain features to give my people a margin of safety.”