Avalanche close call in Austria's Krippenstein Freeride Arena — AMAZING photo!
Clemens Stieböck sent us the following email description of what went wrong in this Herman Erber photo of Clemens caught in the middle of a big avy slide.
That day started off with a routine police control stop on the way to the Krippenstein Freeride Arena, my home ski resort in Austria. Looking back this seems to have been an omen…
It was bluebird day, but it had snowed the day before and there had been strong winds before the snowfall. My buddy Hannes and I were highly motivated and hungry for powder. I suggested doing a warm-up run and then ski a big face called “Himmeleck,” which means “heaven’s corner.” This face has a vertical drop of 400 meters; it’s wide open in the upper part and very exposed and tricky in the lower part. We had skied this face many times before.
I skied first; big, fast turns at the very left edge of the face. I stopped halfway down the run on a shoulder where I thought it would be safe enough to wait for Hannes. It turned out to be a trap—Hannes dropped in and released a massive avalanche coming directly towards me. The whole mountain was moving. There was no way to exit or escape. I was standing on the shoulder, the avalanche already passing me to the left and to the right, waiting for it to hit me as, Hannes was swept down toward the rocks.
This picture shows the moment I am trying to desperately keep above the surface by braking with my right hand and ski edges on the hard, wind-pressed surface below the moving snow. When I look at this picture I can remember the sound of the moving snow and every thought that went through my mind in this moment. After a few tomahawks, I somehow ended up right above a cliff without any injury. I had lost a ski, but was otherwise okay.
I skied down the rest of the face on one ski, looking for Hannes and prepared for the worst. It was one of the happiest moments in my life to find my friend Hannes alive with “only” a broken femur and few minor injuries.