Austrian skier survives 5 hours buried in an avalanche

Stock image.

A 26 year old backcountry skier in Austria was buried in the Styrian Alps by an avalanche on Christmas Day this week.

Emergency services launched a rescue with 20 mountain patrollers, numerous avalanche dogs, alpine police and mountain hut owners after the man’s skiing companion was unable to find him when he disappeared while skiing.

The companion had called the man’s mobile phone but had only heard the sound of crunching snow when the phone was answered.

The avalanche occurred on Pleschnitzzinken peak in a region that was on high alert from the Avalanche Warning Service at the time. After a number of hours searching after dark, the rescue team were able to locate both the avalanche debris and the skier thanks to his  beacon.

Lucky for him he had been trapped in a pocket of air with enough oxygen for him to remain alive during this amount of time. Traditionally the first fifteen minutes of burial will determine whether you survive or not, after that the likelihood of surviving is slim to none.

The skier was rescued severely hypothermic and was extensively treated at the scene before being transported off the peak and to hospital in a stable condition.

Another avalanche also occurred at the ski resort of Andermatt in Switzerland. It is suspected it was triggered by a free rider above the piste after significant snowfall. The avalanche hit the ski trail and took out six people, two were injured, four were able to free themselves unharmed.

Is off piste more dangerous in Europe than North America?

Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.