Avalanche victim rescued by companion

Posted: Friday, March 02, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Swept 2,000 feet down a mountainside and buried by an avalanche outside the boundaries of a ski area, Adam Roy fought for breathing room and hoped for rescue Thursday. He didn't have to wait long.

Within a few minutes, his skiing companion, Stephan Drake, used a locator beacon to home in on his friend, saw a glove sticking out of the snow and dug him free.

''I just fought like hell to get my hands up,'' said Roy, 23, of Grand Junction, Colo. ''There was nothing else in my body that was moving, it was like cement.''

Roy was the last of four skiers and snowboarders to plunge down Hogsback Ridge near Eaglecrest Ski Area when the snow broke loose, carrying him between 1,800 and 2,200 feet down. At first, Roy, a skier since the age of 2, was able to keep his skis atop the avalanche, but the momentum overwhelmed him and he saw trees flash by.

''It's a long ways from where he got caught up to where he ended up,'' said Rick Kaufman, operations manager at the city-owned ski area.

Drake, 24, of Aspen, Colo., was waiting for his friend at the base of the run when he heard a crack.

''The next thing I know, there's an enormous powder cloud,'' Drake said. Drake quickly moved out of the avalanche's path, switched his own locator beacon to ''receive,'' and waited for the slide to subside.

Meanwhile, Roy said he was responding to intense avalanche survival training. With one arm free, he worked to clear an airway so he could breathe and get a hand where searchers could see it.

''If I hadn't had any of that training I probably would have been dead,'' Roy said.

By chance, Roy wound up buried only a short distance from where his friend was waiting, making the search for his protruding glove brief. After falling the length of the slope, Roy suffered only a bruise on his foot caused by the pressure of the snow on his foot.

Roy and Drake were in Juneau for a training course for helicopter skiing guides.

Witnesses spotted the avalanche from about half a mile way, said David Call, Eaglecrest, ski patrol director. Their report prompted rescue workers and search dogs to rush to the scene by helicopter, but Drake had already been dug free when they arrived.

The distant witnesses' worries that one of their friends was also buried prompted workers to search, but the friends were found elsewhere and it was called off, Call said.

Report of the avalanche prompted rescue workers and search dogs to head for the area at the northern end of Douglas Island, across Gastineau Channel from the main part of Juneau.

Mike Hinman, a local snowboarder, was inside the ski area's boundaries when the avalanche hit. He said the ridge is about a 45-minute hike from Eaglecrest proper. The area's main lift was closed an hour early, he said.

''It's an excellent, excellent run,'' Hinman said. ''It is a little dangerous and not patrolled.''

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