Skier survives massive avalanche after being buried for 40 minutes

Posted: Sunday, February 24, 2008

ANCHORAGE - A skier was buried for as long as 40 minutes in a massive avalanche Saturday near the site where two snowmachiners were killed by another slide earlier this month.

Ian Wilson of Portland, Ore., was pulled out alive from 4 feet of snow, but was blue and unresponsive, Alaska State Troopers said. Later, however, the 24-year-old man was able to talk before he was transported to an Anchorage hospital. Wilson, who was vacationing in Alaska, was later discharged from the hospital, said Lt. Barry Wilson, the statewide search and rescue coordinator.

"It has been an exciting, exciting day," said Wilson, who is not related to the skier. "Nobody died from this latest incident."

The avalanche was reported five minutes after searchers recovered the body of Christoph Vonalvensleben, 25, one of the snowmobilers killed in a Feb. 15 avalanche in the backcountry about 65 miles outside of Anchorage.

State transportation workers assisting in the recovery effort saw the avalanche and notified troopers around 2:15 p.m., Wilson said. Within another five minutes, volunteer rescuers and search dogs working on the recovery were heading to the new avalanche site three miles away.

By the time they arrived, the buried skier, who was wearing a locator beacon, had been found by other skiers, including a medic with the U.S. Forest Service, according to Wilson.

"It was a perfect storm of help," he said. "The odds were in this person's favor for survival."

As many as 25 skiers were in the area of the avalanche, but only one other skier was hit. The skier was knocked down by the slide's powder blast, but not completely submerged in the deep snow.

"He was not hurt as far as I know," Wilson said.

Poor weather had prevented rescuers from recovering Vonalvensleben's body. Also killed in that slide was Anchorage resident Jeremy Stark, 25, whose body was recovered Wednesday by a group of friends.

The Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center has reported avalanche conditions were continuing in the area.



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