Maurice Kervin has spent 65 days snowboarding so far this season. Friday is a day he won’t forget. On that day the snowboarder was caught in an avalanche.
“Friday was beautiful. It was golden. We had actually been planning all week to ski this line,” he said.
Recent AIARE Course
Kervin had recently completed a Level 1 safety course through the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE).
All week he and his friends had been watching the avalanche forecast and felt conditions were improving.
“Everyone was actually really excited that the avalanche danger level had actually gone down,” said Kervin. He wasn’t as sure about the forecast, adding, “I was very concerned. I was like, ‘I don’t know guys.'”
Nervous about the day
Kervin and his riding partner hiked toward a spot called No Name near Loveland Pass. They continued to check conditions on their way. And they tested patches of snow for stability. Although the results didn’t show any signs of instability he felt nervous before dropping in.
“I remember telling my buddy ‘I don’t know man. I’m kind of nervous about this run, and if it goes it’s probably going to go big,'” said Kervin.
Kervin think he made it a third of the way down when everything changed. Then the snowboarder was caught in the avalanche.
Caught in an Avalanche
“I cut into a thin patch of snow in some cliff bands. At that point it released below me and the whole slab started to go underneath me. I looked up and around and I saw the snow start coming down from above,” said Kervin.
The avalanche happened quickly and swept him off his feet.
“I definitely wasn’t in control at all, the avalanche was in control. I never had a doubt in my mind that I was going to get buried. My biggest concern was that I was going to hurt myself in some way and make it difficult getting off the mountain,” said Kervin.
He deployed the avalanche airbag in his backpack.
“So I freed my hands, I pulled the bag and I started to do backstroke and kick my feet up to stay on top of the snow, basically just to make myself as big and less dense as possible,” said Kervin.
Kervin was carried about 1,000 feet before he came to a stop on the snow surface. In his video you can hear his air bag fill up. Then seconds later his board hits a large rock where he went over a cliff.
“I was very calm through the whole thing. I think that’s very important thing to be in such a situation. Often times when people panic they make poor decisions or don’t make any decisions at all,” said Kervin.
Role of Training and an Airbag
He made it out with only a dislocated finger. He’s been skiing and riding in the backcountry for about 10 years and completed a Level 1 safety course through AIARE. Despite that, he did not avoid the recognized risk. But Kervin believes the airbag and his training likely saved his life. “I knew what we were doing, and the possibilities that I had feared came true,” said Kervin. He called 911 to report the avalanche but did not require assistance from a rescue team.
He was skiing again the very next day but he wants his story to be an cautionary tale for others who might be venturing into the backcountry, some for the first time.