Sports
by Brandon Wenerd on December 24, 2013

He shared the story of how he survived the terrifying ordeal with BroBible: 

I triggered and got caught in a slide yesterday in the East Vail Chutes, here is my report. He's awfully lucky to be alive:

Three of us headed up from the top of Orient Express via China Wall skin track for our second lap of Abraham's that day around 3:00. Reached the top of the skin track around 3:45, prepared, and dropped in around 3:45. We skied over to the farthest skier's left side of Abraham's in the gladed area, the same line we had skied that morning. My brother dropped in first and went skiers left, deeper into the trees. I dropped into the glade, and area covered with about 10 sets of tracks, and the same face I had skied earlier. I dropped off a two foot roller into a right turn and saw the snow below me cracking up and beginning to slide. I looked uphill, to my right, and saw the crown about 25 feet uphill from me. I then attempted to ski out of the slide to the skiers right, continuing in the direction I was facing, and aimed at a small tree in an attempt to grab on. The slide took me downhill and the front of my skis hit the tree trunk, and I fell headfirst downhill into the slide. I believe I lost my right ski at this point. After sliding headfirst a couple hundred feet, my avalung got torn from my mouth. I slid another couple hundred feet through small trees, still headfirst, my legs get thrashed back and forth whacking the trees. I lost my other ski at some point during this period, and managed to get my avalung back in my mouth only to find it jammed with snow. I then slid over the first cliff band, probably 20ft high, landed, still headfirst, and continued sliding, at this point much deeper under the snow. I swallowed a lot of snow, and coughed it out. I could feel that the slide was slowing to a stop and swam as hard as I could upwards. As it slowed and cemented in place I was able to keep one arm sticking directly in the air, and got my face barely exposed so I could breath. 

At this point my brother and friend who had been waiting for me on top of the cliff band, to the skiers left of the slide, had seen me go over the cliff and spotted where my arm was. They dropped the cliff, skied right towards me, and dug me out within a minute. After I had calmed down somewhat, I tried to stand up and realized neither of my legs could bear weight. I had felt my knee ligaments getting destroyed in the small trees in the upper part of the slide. We assessed the situation, knowing rescue could be very costly, but ultimately deemed it necessary due to my condition. The Vail Ski patrol decided it was too risky and late in the day to send someone from above, so we contacted the local search and rescue team. 

Around 4:15pm we were able to find one of my skis, and realizing we had no other rescue options, began devising a plan to get down to i70 where search and rescue was waiting. After some failed attempts to carry me down we began a strategy of my brother and friend side-sliding a path for me to slide down, sitting on my single ski. We got to the flat below the second cliff band via the slide path with had continued much further down from where I was buried. As it began to get dark, we started cutting traverse paths and I began to be able to bear weight on my right leg and ski across very mild pitches, falling uphill to stop. We continued this process of traversing leftwards as far as possible, and then sliding on my butt down the steep sections, for the next three hours in the dark. Search and rescue guided us over the phone, and recommended we follow the gully down to i70. Because of my traversing ability, and the depth of the snow that was untracked, we decided it would be easier to follow the standard east vail runout to the water tower. Around 8:15 pm we reached the water tower where search and rescue was waiting. 

I went to the hospital and sustained no broken bones, but am waiting on MRI results for what is likely a torn ACL in my right leg and a possible torn meniscus in my left leg. I am extremely lucky to be alive and to have been with two guys who were extremely capable of reacting properly and making the right judgement calls to get me out and save my life. My brother was wearing a GoPro which filmed for a couple hours until it died, capturing the entire rescue and most of the way out in the dark. I have yet to watch it, but will likely post it in the thread at some point. Below I have attacked a picture of Abraham's and marked the slide path. 

Stay safe out there, it was a very unexpected slide, but proof that anything can go anytime. I feel very lucky to be alive and will be taking a serious look and my backcountry skills and judgements. 

Be safe out there, ski Bros.

 

Follow Brandon on Twitter here… 

Brandon Wenerd

About Brandon Wenerd...

Brandon Wenerd is BroBible's senior editor, guru of @brotips, and director of strategic partnerships. He joined BroBible in the fall of 2009 after graduating from Penn State. When he’s not writing, Brandon enjoys fishing, Phish, Philly sports, Dewey Beach, supporting live music, hot sauce, and beer. E-mail him with post ideas and news tips: brandon@brobible.com.

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