Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images
As impressive as all those snowboarders looked during the Winter Olympics, I can honestly say that strapping my feet down to a board and confronting Mother Nature and all her snowy might is not my idea of a good time. But for some people it is. And unfortunately they have to deal with the worst case scenarios sometimes.
Heather Turning and her boyfriend were hitting the slopes at Squaw Valley’s K-22 mountain when all of a sudden they heard a huge roar and someone yell “Avalanche!” And that’s when the chaos began.
“It changed the entire terrain,” Heather said. “We could feel pellets of snow when it roared by us.”
According to Turning, they watched a 40-yard-wide wall of snow break off a rock and come towards them. The results? A ton of snowboarders and skiers trapped under snow. Another one of those snowboarders trapped? A man named Evan Huck. And his rescue was caught on film. Check it out below.
Huck says he was there four to six minutes, and began losing air a minute in. Thanks to his snowboard being spotted by others he was able to be dug out by some of folks, one of them being Heather.
“That is the only singular thought I had, is how can I help, what can I do, what’s the next step, you forget about yourself completely, whether you’re cold or hurt or anything,” said Heather.
The resort received 68 inches of snow from Thursday to Saturday. The massive winter storm across California created some perilous avalanche dangers. On Saturday, Mammoth Mountain had its own avalanche in the Southern California resort. Six employees working a chairlift were partially covered in snow. No one was injured.
On Friday, after the Squaw Valley avalanche stormed past Turning and her boyfriend, the mist quickly cleared and the Roseville pair saw about six people still standing in the area. People started yelling and checking on each other and everyone seemed OK.
The couple snowboarded down toward the area and Turning unbuckled her snowboard, crawling through waist-high snow at the foot of the avalanche. Four or five people were already frantically digging, flinging snow into the air, captured in a short 10-second video clip. A skier had spotted the tip of a man’s snowboard sticking out of the snow.
By the time Turning reached the man, his face and upper body had been cleared of about two to three feet of snow. Turning worked to free him from his bindings and gently brushed snow off of his face and beard as ski patrol arrived with shovels.
Unfortunately one snowboarder, Wenyu Zhang, was found dead after the avalanche. He is the only loss of life due to the avalanche.