An avalanche survivor is talking about being buried by snow to encourage others to be safe while in the mountains.

A year ago Ryan Mitchell had a life changing experience. He and some friends were snowboarding at Steamboat Resort when an avalanche was triggered above them.

Area was closed, but access not blocked

Mitchell was one of eight people who were in a closed area. Although the area was closed they did not duck any ropes to access it. They traversed in above Big Meadow, which was open, and below the chutes. It is believed they triggered the avalanche from below. Several people were caught in the slide but only Mitchel was completely buried. Another person was buried up to their waist.

“Just a normal day”

“It was just a normal day. We were actually planning to go out and build a jump out in Steamboat,” said Mitchell. “I was out in front and my buddy Dane cut across, and all of a sudden there was a loud boom.”

They tried to outrun the slide but he and a friend were buried. “It hit me in the back of my board and I just went in.”

His friend extricated himself and was able to tell the other friend where Mitchell was last seen. Having some avalanche training, they started digging. A skier who witnessed the whole thing went to get ski patrol. Ryan was buried for 8 minutes. He had to come to terms with what could have been the end of his life.

“I was like, ‘Man, this is it.’ Everything went through my brain. The last conversations I had with everybody that I feel like I ever had a conversation with.”

Recovered before ski patrol arrived

Miraculously, he says his friends found him just as ski patrol was arriving. “I guess my buddies were saying they took my arm out and it just flopped and I was just blue.”

Mitchell was taken to a hospital and was not injured. When he was released he went for chicken wings to celebrate. He is telling his story now as an avalanche survivor because he has seen stories about avalanches trapping and killing people.

Keep enjoying the mountains, safely

He wants people to know that enjoying the mountains is still a good thing. Just make sure you go with people who have avalanche training.

“Keep doing what you love to do and just keep pushing man. I’m thankful that I had good people around me. Good friends that knew what they were doing and when times got tough, they didn’t panic.”

photo of avalanche debris

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