A voice yells, “It’s okay, we’ve got you”. I feel chilly fingers jerk my jaw down and scrape snow from my mouth allowing my airway to suck gratefully at mountain oxygen. My goggles are pushed back and I look up to see my friend’s face, panting with exertion and concern. Behind her, two others use metal snow shovels to dig the rest of me out. “It was an avalanche, helicopter is on its way”, I’m told. What felt like an hour has taken just six minutes.
To make the fourteen minute deadline, rescuers have seven minutes to locate the body and another seven minutes to dig them out to access oxygen. I was lucky to be found and dug out in six minutes, I’m told later over a cold beer in the pub. I’m grateful, but somehow not surprised. Luck played no part in being with this group of like-minded skiers, we deliberately sought out industry leading avalanche awareness training that provided on-mountain rescue scenarios and all carry rescue equipment in the mountains like second skin. A backpack filled with probe sticks, sturdy metal shovel, water, first aid and an avalanche beacon strapped to each skiers’ chest, set on ‘receive’ mode but all trained to flick the switch to ‘search’ mode if and when disaster strikes.
Wearing and carrying proper gear is paramount to comfort out on a mountain. It’s great to save money but when you’re out in extreme elements in side or back country it’s no time to skimp on quality. Le Bent, an innovative Australian base layer company has combined the benefits of bamboo with merino wool to produce base layer tops, pants, socks, balaclavas and gloves for snow conditions . Hiking 8 km straight up the ridge from the base of the mountain ready to ski untracked powder in the NSW Snowies, the merits of this unusual bamboo-merino combo is noted and appreciated. A former user of synthetic balaclavas, the breathability of bamboo made hiking bearable, hours later when wind whipped sideways and snow swirled, those perspiration-wicking base layers really counted. The Le Bent socks with added shin layer bore the brunt of every step my cross-country skis took. And the odour-free properties were true to form.
female in your group. Women are more risk averse, encourage like-minded female friends to join your group rather than dissuade them based on gender alone. If you’re thinking of pushing personal limits beyond the confines of snow resorts, first think Avalanche Awareness and make your best chance of success your smartest one you’ve made all year.