Surviving an Avalanche | How Not to Die on Holiday

Surviving an Avalanche | How Not to Die on Holiday

There was a massive avalanche
sliding down through the valley.
I felt this huge wave of snow. I was
screaming and they couldn’t hear me.
I realised that they probably
weren’t going to find me.
Hoping for a body-sized shape.
She had purple lips.
She wasn’t breathing.
I thought she was dead.
After university, I decided
to do a ski season.
I ended up going to Ischgl
in Austria.
I got a job as a rep.
That was such a dream come true,
to be able to have
these incredible slopes.
My closest friend on my season
was Gordon.
Rhianna is really energetic.
She’s a lot of fun to be around.
She loves a good wild party.
She’s so enthusiastic about getting
up, having a good day’s skiing.
It was a bluebird day.
Clear blue skies and about
half a metre of fresh powder,
which is pretty much
a skier’s dream.
I dragged Gordon out of bed.
We went up the mountain,
started skiing, and for us,
the number one thing to do is ski
off the piste.
Off-piste is…
Basically, it’s uncontrolled.
What everyone’s looking for is,
like, nice, fresh, soft powder.
But it’s also where
all the danger is.
We were getting on the lift and came
across another four of our friends.
It was actually my idea
to be, like, “Hey, guys,
“why don’t we go to Death Valley?”
Which was an area we’d nicknamed
because it was a bit prone
to avalanches.
I was at the front.
One of them overtook me.
Then I was re-overtaking him
and we collided and tumbled.
I felt this huge wave of snow
wash over me.
It kept going and going and going,
and that carried me down the slope.
I was just perched on the side.
I heard a noise and there was
a massive avalanche sliding down
through the valley.
Avalanches are caused
when a layer of snow
breaks loose from the mountain
beneath it.
They can be triggered
by the smallest impact,
often by those caught in them.
Avoid skiing off-piste or
mountain hiking after heavy snow
and always check avalanche risk.
If it is three or more, seriously
consider changing your plans.
I then tried to move
and I couldn’t. I was a metre under.
There was literally no space
whatsoever to breathe.
It was kind of like having a cloth
over your mouth.
The main cause of death
from an avalanche is suffocation.
As you’re falling, move your hands
in front of your face
to make an air pocket before
the avalanche comes to a stop.
This will give you more oxygen
and increase your chances
of survival.
We started gathering people
Turns out we had everyone
apart from Rhianna.
The first thing we thought was,
“Let’s try calling her.”
Got the phone out, give her a call.
I started screaming, um, and I could
faintly see which way was up.
My phone started ringing,
but because I was frozen in position
I couldn’t get to it,
and they couldn’t hear me.
And that’s when I kind of realised
that they probably weren’t
going to find me.
My sister was the last thing
I thought of.
My sister is my favourite
person in the whole world
and my best friend ever.
I remember thinking that
and then just let myself go,
and I just let the darkness
close in.
If buried under snow,
your chances of survival drop fast
after 15 minutes.
If you think someone is buried,
call for help.
Some ski resorts list the local
rescue number on your ski pass.
She wasn’t answering. We were like,
“We need to start looking for her.”
Gordon needs to place a marker
on the last place he saw Rhianna.
Avalanches move like fresh water.
By searching downwards
from the marker,
Gordon can assess the terrain
and follow the most likely flow
of the snow.
He needs to scan the area
for any signs of life.
It was taking a long time,
hoping for a body-sized shape.
Because I was a skier,
I had ski poles and could use them
sort of like probes, but the other
guys, being snowboarders,
didn’t even have anything to dig
into the snow to look for her.
She’d been under for somewhere
in the region of 30 minutes
and I was like, “This is too long.
“I’m not sure if she’d actually
survive this.”
We’d found a few false alarms
and then Jim shouted,
“I’ve found something!”
He goes, “It’s Rhianna!”
We all rushed over,
started digging, and I dug out
Rhianna’s face, which was just,
like, pure white
and she had purple lips
and she wasn’t breathing.
I thought she was dead.
Use your ski equipment
or a snow shovel to break through
the densely packed snow.
Dig out the person as much
as you can.
Make sure their airways are open
and not obstructed.
If they’re not breathing,
put your thumbs on their cheeks
and your fingers under
their jaw bone and lift up.
This helps keep their airways open.
Look, listen and feel
for ten seconds.
If they’re not breathing,
start mouth to mouth and CPR.
We basically dug out just enough
to start giving her CPR.
After doing it for a little while,
I was thinking,
“It’s not working. She is dead.
“This situation has
gone as badly as it possibly could.”
Can you hear me? Rhianna?
She sort of made a bit
of a rasping noise
like she’d started
to breathe again.
Just an overwhelming sense of
relief, like, when we realised
that she was actually breathing.
Focus on keeping the person warm
to prevent further heat loss.
When I woke up, I wasn’t quite sure
what was going on.
I was just dealing with the fact
that I was incredibly cold.
I came over and gave her a hug
and a kiss on the cheek.
Then she turned around and said,
“Don’t kiss me!”
I was like, “Yeah, this is
definitely Rhianna.
“She’s fine after all!”
The avalanche has had all kinds
of impacts on me, and being deprived
of oxygen for that amount of time is
bound to have sort of repercussions.
My whole body
just sort of stopped functioning
as well as it should, and I feel
that I’ve maybe sort of aged it
quite significantly.
The more time I have,
the more I look back and realise
how incredibly lucky I was.
I feel incredibly grateful towards
not just Gordon but all the boys.
Because of that day, every year she
goes out of her way to thank us
for giving her what she calls
a second chance at life.
The avalanche has not
put me off skiing.
I’m definitely more cautious
If there’s even the slightest
chance I’ll go off-piste,
I have my transceiver,
which emits a signal.
Everybody should also always have
a shovel and a probe.
And then I have an air bag
which, you pull a handle
and it keeps you above the snow
and so you don’t get buried.
Avalanche gear is quite expensive,
but ultimately,
what price is your life?
Life is really short and it can,
at any moment,
be taken away from you.
So you need to spend it doing things
you want to do and that you enjoy.
And I think it’s something
that I live my life by today.

11 thoughts on “Surviving an Avalanche | How Not to Die on Holiday”

  1. Even doh she sounds + kinda 1/2 looks V much like a stuck up posh snobby pants
    ide still hava
    rait good crak at
    'pleasing her senseless😄'
    By givin my best shot at smashin her bk doors in
    '👉↔👌' '🍑⬅👅⬅🗿'

  2. Don’t take this advice , you need to have the correct equipment. A transceiver is a must make things a lot easier . Don’t be a moron and ride off piste alone and without the correct equipment. You should know the terrain and the avalanche risk and keep distance between each other .

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