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On January 13th a group of three of us set out on a backcountry ski tour from Lookout Pass, on the Idaho Montana border. The plan of the tour was a single descent a few miles up the ridge, in familiar terrain and then to return to the resort. The day was treated as a regular backcountry ski day, with relevant safety gear and planning completed. After reaching the high point of our tour we descended the slope in sections one at a time, and stopping to regroup in safe zones.
About a third the way down the route the slope angle had increased. Proceeding down the slope a half dozen turns from the last safe zone, a shallow wind slab begin to break under me. I attempted to ski out of the slab, but deployed my ABS avalanche airbag almost simultaneously as the avalanche stepped to a lower layer and swept my feet from under me. I was carried down the slope approximately 400 vertical feet and dragged over granite uncovered by the avalanche. When I came to a rest in the deposition zone I was buried to my chest. Luckily, my airbag pack had kept my head above the snow for most of the time I was carried down the slope.
My tour partners quickly arrived and began to dig me out and assess injuries. I was in a good amount of pain and following assessment we discovered the extent of the injuries. I had a compound femur fracture as well as a large, deep gash on my shin. Realizing the severity of the situation and necessity for helicopter rescue, we applied first aid and immediately phoned 911 and activated the ResQLink I always carry in my pack. Cell phone service was spotty and batteries drained quickly but we were able to establish that the ResQLink coordinates had been received from the Air Force and rescue teams were mobilizing.
In the three and a half hours following the avalanche, both the weather and my condition had considerably deteriorated. The rate of snowfall increased to 1-2" inches an hour and visibility sometimes dropped to less than a half mile. We knew conditions were far from ideal for any type of rescue, let alone a helicopter evacuation. Two Bear Air out of Kalispell, Montana took the chance on the weather and came to my rescue, utilizing those GPS coordinates from the ResQLink device to pinpoint our location on the middle of the slope in poor visibility. The sounds of the helicopter's rotors echoing up the valley is something I'll never forget. I was expertly extracted by hoist and flown to the ski area parking lot, where I was then transferred to ambulance and began receiving medical care. Fortunately, everyone in our party made it to safety that evening.
Cell phone service was spotty and batteries drained quickly but we were able to establish that the ResQLink coordinates had been received from the Air Force and rescue teams were mobilizing.
Thank you ACR!
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