With all the talk about avalanches recently, I just realized that it is the 30th year anniversary of when I was buried in an avalanche and survived.
Short history: I have been skiing since 1959 and started back country skiing in 1978. I lived in Denver and had several wild and crazy buddies I usually skied with and we went out whenever conditions and time allowed. We didn't have beacons back then, but we always watched the weather, called the avalanche phone recording (pre-internet) and carried shovels. No one had any formal avalanche training then but we tried to learn what we could. I had been caught in a couple sluffs and slides over the years but never buried more than knee deep. Not too unusual for young, stupid kids 30 years ago...
I had a day off at work one day in January 1983 and couldn't get my normal ski buddy to come along. I almost considered going alone but finally talked another buddy, Dave, into coming along. We went to the north side of Berthod Pass, parked and skinned up Second Creek as we often did. After lunch at the old A-frame cabin, we went over to Parsenn Bowl, one of our favorite places. Back then, Parsenn Bowl was National Forest backcountry, but was eventually included into the Mary Jane ski area boundaries. We would usually ski Parsenn a couple times, ski down Winter Park or Mary Jane, have some beers at the base and hitchhike back to the car left on the pass and head home.
At the top of Parsenn that time we felt a little uneasy about the conditions, but went on ahead anyhow. I went in the lead with Dave behind. I just got started when I heard what sounded like a big jet airliner coming behind me at about 50 feet. Through the reflection off the inside of my Vaurnet's I could see the side of the mountain moving. I went into a figure eleven but was caught and thrown forward. I tried swimming up but was pulled and twisted down. When it stopped I miraculously had a couple cracks in the chunks of snow above so I had an air passage but couldn't move a thing. I guess my head was about a foot or so under the surface, the rest of me deeper. I called out for help and finally heard Dave. Luckily he did not get buried and was able to get to me. It took a while to dig me out (I still had on my pack, skis, poles and sunglasses!). About the time I got dug out, the ski patrol from the Iron Horse lift at Mary Jane roared up on their snowmobiles. They saw two sets of tracks into the slide and two people accounted for who were OK, then went up to the fracture to study it because at the time they were planning to include the area within the area boundaries. No one remembered a big slide like that one there before. The fracture was about 450 yards long, about 4-6 feet thick and slid over 200 yards.
There is nothing like a reformed sinner preaching the gospel, but I have tried since then to help others from making as many mistakes as I made. It is easy to see through different lenses these days but we thought we were pretty invincible way back then and the level of awareness, training and equipment was also more primitive. I'm 63 now and don't go back there to do this sort of thing much anymore and I don't buy lottery tickets as I reckon I used up all my luck that day 30 years ago. If I can't be a good influence at least I can be a bad example...
This is me on the same Parsenn Bowl a week before the slide back in 1983, just about on the exact spot where I was buried.
And some pictures of the slide. Note the tracks.
This is the hole I was dug out of:
I have other stories about other avalanches I was involved in but not as the victim but I think this one stands on its own in my memory. Please feel free to add any stories you might have of your avalanche.