From the Archives: AvaLung in Action
In the wake of the most recent AvaLung survival story out of Montana, we've had requests for some past reports of buried skiers using the AvaLung and living to tell the tale. Though some cases have certainly gone unreported, below is a backlog of incidents where the AvaLung was credited with helping a buried skier survive an avalanche.
Montana skier Pete Lev credits the AvaLung II with saving his life after he fell in a treewell on a deep day at Whitefish Mountain, Montana. Click HERE to check out Pete's write-up.
Click HERE for a first-person account of this accident originally posted in the BD Journal.
While touring near the Eiseman Hut north of Vail, Colorado, three people (1 skier, 1 splitboarder, and 1 boarder on snowshoes) were skinning up a steep 40-degree slope when they triggered an avalanche. All three were buried, from depths ranging from 3 feet to 10 feet. All three were using their AvaLungs and were eventually able to self rescue and dig each other out. One was buried for 1 hour, the second for 1:20, and the third for 2 hours. All three survived with only minor bruises and cuts.
Read the official report from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center HERE.
Skier Chris Cardello was caught in an avalanche and completely buried during a heli-skiing trip in the mountains outside of Haines. Cardello was wearing a helmet cam, and his footage gives an intense perspective on what its like to be caught, buried and rescued from an avalanche.
Christoph Fien and three other skiers were traversing a 20-degree slope near the Marteller Hut in the Martell Valley of northern Italy when a failed cornice triggered an avalanche that buried all four skiers. Fien was the only member of the party to survive.
Read the incident interview with Christoph Fiehn HERE.
Norwegian Martin Gulsrud was skiing an area near TUFS at the Tignes resort, France, when he was caught in an avalanche that buried him approximately 2.5 meters deep for 20 minutes. Gulsrud and his entire group were carrying avalanche safety gear and following terrain protocol when he was caught.
Read the incident interview with Martin Gulsrud HERE.
A guided heli-skiing party triggered an avalanche that buried one guide and two clients to a depth of 6 feet for between 35-45 minutes. All three victims were swept into a terrain trap, deposited close to each other, and were dug out within a few minutes of each other. The guide and one client could not be resuscitated. The second client, Mike Morrisey, was wearing an AvaLung and survived.
Read the incident report and interview with Mike Morrisey HERE.
A guided party of 6 skiers were heli-skiing in the Vallee de Greyssonnet la Trinete, Italy. They were skiing a slope for the second time when they released an avalanche that buried 1 guide and 1 client. Below is the guide's write-up of the accident:
The helicopter drops us off, where we decide to ski the same slope for a second time. The snow conditions are perfect. This time we choose a line that is a little steeper (moraine) and for this reason we ski one at a time. I ski first and stop at the top of a small couloir that gives us access to a shot leading to a wide slope. Of my 6 clients, 4 wear AvaLung - as they have all week (at my suggestion). I also wear an AvaLung.
The first client skis down and stops slightly below me. The second client also skis the slope safely. The third client begins skiing down and the entire slope of approximately 200 meters in width and 60 meters in length starts to slide.
My first reaction is to try and ski out to the right of the slide over some windpacked snow. As I begin skiing, the mouthpiece of the AvaLung is not in my mouth. After jumping off a small cliff, I'm caught by the avalanche at the same time as one of my clients who has stayed with me from the top of the couloir. As the avalanche comes to a stop, I'm buried by approximately 80 cm of snow and absolutely can not move.
My body position is lying on my back with my head downhill. The AvaLung mouthpiece is directly in front of me and I get it into my mouth. Immediately I am able to breathe which allowd me to relax and eases the pressure on my thorax. While the clients locate and dig me out (10-15 minutes), the AvaLung gives me back my esprit and allows me to make plans to find any other clients who may be buried.
After being rescued, I quickly locate the only buried client in approximately 2-3 minutes. He is not wearing an AvaLung and is unconscious. Not dead but still breathing. Luckily, he gains consciousness during the helicopter flight to Aostra hospital.
In April 2000, a helicopter ski guide was recovered after being buried at a depth of 90 to 110 cm. When he was excavated from the snowpack, he was found breathing through the mouthpiece of the AvaLung. He reported being completely unable to move once he was buried and he experienced a high level of anxiety. He reported that he heard a strange sound and realized it was coming from his breathing through the AvaLung. He was subsequently able to relax and concentrate on his breathing. He was recovered after approximately 15 minutes.