Real-Time Avalanche Rescue Footage
Mountain Sledder | On 04, Mar 2017
Chilling avalanche rescue footage from a pair of skiers in France, originally posted almost exactly 2 years ago, has resurfaced.
The edge-of-your-seat video shows a skier trigger a large avalanche and become fully buried. It then switches perspective to the riding partner, who initiates the companion rescue. A real-time counter runs in the corner to show just how fast precious minutes can pass in an avalanche rescue.
The footage is absolutely gripping, and it really makes you feel like you’re right there searching along for your friend. Though the avalanche is not as large or deep as it could have been, it still is plainly obvious that without both party members using transceivers that there would be absolutely no hope of finding the victim in time.
Even though the avalanche involves skiers, not sledders, it’s worth a watch for anyone who travels in the mountains. It’s worth asking yourself, how well would you react in a situation like this?
The English translation debriefing of the event is posted below:
“Daily weather conditions : A bit cloudy in the morning getting completely covered in the afternoon, no wind, low temperatures.
Snow conditions: It snowed a lot the week before (more than 50 cm of powder accumulated), not so much wind during the last days, no positive temperatures.
Types of terrain and snow encountered: The area is divided in 3 parts: the first is not very steep with some little fir trees, the second one is the steepest one and with no tree, the face goes steeper and steeper, at the end of this part there are some little cliffs (between 3 and 5 meters), the last part is almost flat (max 30°), opened with no slope failure, it’s where the avalanche happened.
Dennis is the yellow and black rider who got caught by the avalanche. Colin is the orange and blue rider who did the rescue.
At the top of the run Colin started first to test the snow, he made some jumped turns and small horizontal crossings to see if slabs would trigger ( the most probable would be a wind slab ), nothing happened. Later on the run the snow was deeper, lighter and wasn’t transformed.
This is what happened to Dennis during the beginning of the avalanche and then under the snow:
1) Dennis starts his run skiing fast in diagonal until he arrives above the cliffs.
2) When he is above it, he tests the snow.
3) Being confident in the snow he decides to jump the cliff below him.
4) The landing is perfect and nothing seems to move. A few meters later cracks appear but he doesn’t see them. A few seconds later he notices a “snow plough” before him. At this moment he doesn’t understand that it’s the front end of the moving slab.
5) Unfortunately the slab gets bigger and bigger where Dennis chose to make his turn. Riding on the main crack he fell.
6) After the fall he stood up, back to the avalanche, and then got hit and buried by the avalanche. He will not see the surface again.
This is what Colin experienced during the avalanche and the rescue. The numbers correspond to the time displayed by the stopwatch.
1) Colin is protected between a cliff and a tree, he is watching Dennis riding.
2) He sees some sluff going down then Dennis appears.
3) After Dennis appears he sees a layer cracking 5 m before him. The crack becomes bigger and bigger and a new one appears above him.
0.00.0 : Dennis is burried, it’s the beginning of the 15 decisive minutes. He will not see him resurface.
0.00.0 – 0.10.58 : Colin keeps looking at the avalanche as it’s still moving and he asks the witnesses for help.
0.10.58 – 0.31.00 : Once the avalanche stops moving he takes his DVA and puts it in search mode.
0.32.00 – 0.55.00 : After hesitating on the itinerary to take in order to reach the avalanche he drops the cliff below him and gets to the avalanche. ( WRONG DECISION: HE SHOULD HAVE GO AROUND THE CLIFF NOT TO BE IN THE SAME SETTING AS DENNIS OR, IF HE JUMPED, HE HAD TO KEEP THE DVA IN SENDING MODE UNTIL HE WAS IN SECURITY).
1.00.00 – 2.48.00 : Arrival on the avalanche (he had a problem to put back his gloves, think to do it, so you don’t let your smell for the avalanche dogs, this is important). It’s the beginning of the search on skis. For the moment he doesn’t have any signal.
2.49.00-2.59.00 : The first signal is received ( SECOND MISTAKE: LEAVE AN OBJECT WHERE THE FIRST SIGNAL IS RECEIVED ), he follows it by skis.
2.59.00 – 3.19.00 : He takes off his skis at approximately 10 meters from Dennis according to the DVA and continues the search slower.
3.19.00 – 3.45.00 : While at 3 m from Dennis, Dennis feels Colin above him and starts to shout to be remarked, Colin hears him. He shouts back but Dennis doesn’t hear him.
3.45.00 – 4.05.00 : The cross research starts ( after a bit too much time, Colin being too focused on Dennis’ voice ) with the nearest signal being received.
4.05.00 – 4.43.00 : At this moement a witness arrives near Colin. While Colin was preparing the probe, the witness finds Dennis’ leg. The witnesses don’t have shovels so they help by digging with their hands.
5.02.00 – 5.40.00 : Colin stars to shovel.
5.40.00 – 6.04.00 : Dennis’ head is out of the snow, the respiratory tract are cleared and he answers Colin’s questions. He is conscious and breathes : end of the stopwatch.
4) The snowpatrol arrives at this moment and starts their security and information check…
Info: Colin was shouting at Dennis during all the rescue, Dennis will tell us that he didn’t hear anything, even when Colin was above him.
Estimated time From the moment he got buried until the moment his head was out of the snow and he was answering questions : about 6 minutes.
Avalanche characteristics: about 40 meters wide at the top, around 60 m wide at the bottom, average slope 28°, around 200 m long, depth of the crack around 70/80 cm, started at the altitude of 2000m on a West exposed face, Dennis was found at a depth of 1m to 1.5m.
We are sorry the images are not centered and don’t let you see the DVA and Dennis’s head when we took him out of the snow.
We would like to thank the witnesses who reacted very well by calling the 112 and by helping Colin to dig; and the resorts’ snowpatrols (especially François Debergé and Sylvain Thibodaux) who arrived really fast and did their job really well.
We hope that this explanatory video will be a constructive example for you to work on your research protocol and on how to react during such an event. Don’t hesitate to ask us questions and share your thoughts so the debate on avalanches and how to “avoid” them can move forward.
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Also have a look and like/share Zapiks, Youtube, Facebook and Instagram pages of the ODOS project and of the Lucky Boy – Born to Ride crew.
Be safe !
Corbet Dennis and Gomez Colin freeride enthusiasts.”