WHISTLER, British Columbia – A snowboarder’s helmet camera captured the terrifying moment when he was caught up in an avalanche in Canada recently.
The man survived the experience at least in part due to his equipment, a fact that highlights the importance of being prepared before heading into the backcountry.
Tom Oye, originally from Australia, now lives in Whistler, British Columbia and posted video of his harrowing avalanche encounter on his Facebook page Wednesday (Warning: Video contains some strong language).
Fortunately, Oye had a special avalanche airbag with him, which likely helped save his life.
Oye’s grandmother told ABC News in Australia that friends and family pitched in to buy him the airbag during a recent visit home.
The airbag looks like a small backpack and has a ripcord similar to a parachute. When a skier or snowboarder is swept up in an avalanche, he or she can pull the cord to inflate the bag to protect their body and hopefully keep them on the surface of the avalanche.
The airbag is one of several potentially life-saving items that backcountry skiers or snowboarders should carry whenever they head out.
An avalanche transceiver or beacon is also vital, as are a collapsible shovel and probes in order to test the snowpack and dig out anyone who may be buried.
Avalanche safety training is just as important as having the proper equipment. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center offers a free avalanche awareness program and has a website dedicated to backcountry safety. Some outdoor stores like REI also offer avalanche safety courses.
Avalanche danger has been extremely high in many of Colorado’s mountains recently, with more than two dozen reported avalanches so far this week.
The Aspen, Steamboat & Flat Tops and Front Range regions all remain under avalanche warnings until Friday morning.
The Vail & Summit County and Sawatch zones also remain under “high” avalanche conditions, though they are only under avalanche watches, not warnings.
If you have plans to head into the backcountry soon, be sure to check with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center for the latest conditions.