Skier Miraculously Survives After Being Buried Under Avalanche

Rescue forces search for missing people after an avalanche swept down a ski piste in the central town of Andermatt, canton Uri, Switzerland, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019. The avalanche occurred mid-morning Thursday while many holiday skiers enjoyed mountain sunshine the day after Christmas. (Keystone via AP)
Keystone via AP

An Austrian skier’s life was saved Wednesday in what rescuers are calling a “Christmas miracle,” after an avalanche trapped him under the snow for five hours.

“Police were contacted shortly before 17:00 local time (16:00 GMT) on Christmas Day by a man who said the 26-year-old had not returned from skiing,” according to the BBC.

The man said he called the skier’s cell phone, but heard only “crackling noises” on the other end of the line.

Thankfully, rescuers located the young man two hours later by using an electronic avalanche victim’s transceiver, a device skiers are required to wear in areas where avalanches occur most often.

The skier was pinned underneath three feet of snow on a slope of Mount Pleschnitzzinken, which is in the northwestern area of Upper Styria.

“You can’t move under a blanket of snow like this,” said Stefan Schröck of the Styria mountain rescue service.

“The man was extremely lucky he had a big enough air pocket under the blanket of snow, so he had oxygen too and was able to breathe.”

Once he was located, the rescue team and dogs dug the man out of the snow. He suffered from hypothermia but is expected to recover, the Washington Examiner reported.

“According to Schrock, surviving for that long after an avalanche only happens once every five years in the Alps. In most cases, a person needs to be rescued within 15 minutes in order to survive.”

Individuals who find themselves trapped under an avalanche can assist their own rescue by using their hands to carve out a breathing space, according to Outdoor Life magazine.

“If the snow layer above you is relatively thin, daylight might shine through, so go toward that. If you’re too deep for light to be your guide, clear a space near your mouth and spit. Watch the direction in which gravity pulls the spit, and head the other way,” the article concluded.

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