Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Victim recounts Baldy avalanche

Nick Weber and family enjoy happy ending


Friend Michael Gillette, left, sits with the Weber family, including, from left to right, Annie, Nick, Michael, and Callie. Nick, center, was rescued by the Sun Valley Ski Patrol after being buried by an avalanche on Saturday, Jan. 5. Photo by Willy Cook

By WILLY COOK

and JON DUVAL

Express Staff

The following are the first-hand recollections of avalanche survivor Nick Weber, as well as reflections on the incident from his parents, Michael and Annie.

Nick Weber:

"My friends and I stopped on the cat track at the bottom of Lower College and looked into the South Slopes. It looked really good and there were tracks from other skiers and ski patrol bomb marks so we thought everything was safe to drop in.

About 15 feet off the cat track everything started to move. I felt something hit my ankle, like at the ocean when a little wave hits you. It pushed a little bit, then harder, causing me to flip over a couple of times.

I was totally covered by snow and it felt like a dream—I knew what was happening, but I didn't know it was happening to me. I felt somewhat detached from the event.

I could move my head about one inch, but nothing else. I could breathe and I tried to stick my tongue out to melt the snow, pushing it up and away from my mouth, having read that in my friend Michael's book, "The Worst Case Survival Handbook, Extreme Edition" about three months ago.

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After a while, I could see spots in front of my eyes and I thought I was seconds away from passing out. I was really scared and it was very claustrophobic.

I heard noise and I didn't know if it was more snow sliding.

I guess I thought I was dead right before I was dug out.

I think I'll ski again soon, but on the groomed runs. Right now, when I look at powder, I see avalanches.

Before this incident, I looked at the ski patrol taking the toboggans down the hill and I never thought it would be me. I'm very thankful that they are skilled enough to have found me."

Annie Weber

"When I got the call from ski patrol, Nick was already safe, so I missed the real worrying. However, that night I couldn't sleep, thinking about what could have happened.

In the future I'll pay more attention to the ski patrol signs on the hill and advise people not to ski alone. I took safety for granted and assumed it's safe to ski in-bounds.

However, if this kind of event can happen in-bounds, wow!"

Michael Weber

"We're very happy that things worked out the way they did, thanks to the ski patrol. To reach in and pull someone out alive, that's a mindblower. (Eric Demment) is a hero in our eyes.

You kind of assume that if the mountain is open, then the snow is stable, but this proves differently."




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