Sandro Blesinger was skiing on Blackcomb Mountain Friday when he saw the fault line form in the snow beneath him.
“Suddenly I saw a crack in the snow and I realized the snow was moving with me and I was shocked about that,” he said. “Four seconds later, I really realized what happened.”
Having been swept up in the avalanche, the 19-year-old from Germany managed to stay calm and pulled the trigger on an airbag pack, a device that when inflated helps a skier rise to the surface of the snow.
Blesinger said the inflatable device also helped cushion the blow.
“I just landed on the airbag with my head and I think that was a really, really good thing otherwise I would have just hit my head on the ground.”
Surprisingly, Blesinger, who said he was skiing inbounds at the time, only suffered a sore neck.
Earlier this year, an Australian snowboarder who got caught up in an avalanche in Whistler credited his airbag backpack for saving his life.
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Friday’s incident comes at a time when the avalanche danger in Whistler and the backcountry is of particular concern.
“People really need to ensure that not only do they have all of the appropriate safety equipment but that they know how to use it, they’re proficient with it and at the start of each day they actually practise it with each other,” Brad Sill of Whistler Search and Rescue said.
Four days after his close call, Blesinger was back on the slopes Tuesday. The first thing he packed was his avalanche airbag.
“It was a birthday present from my grandparents and I’m really thankful to get that,” he said.
– With files from Rumina Daya