A San Francisco snowboarder who had a near-death experience buried in an avalanche described what it was like trying to outrace a snow “tsunami.”
Evan Huck was snowboarding Friday at Squaw Valley Ski Resort near Lake Tahoe in northern California with his wife, Kahlynn, when he heard someone yell. He turned to see an “eight foot wall of snow” roaring down the mountain behind him ― a snow “tsunami.”
It “hit us in about a second,” Huck told ABC7-TV Saturday. He was instantly buried.
“I was conscious for about 45 seconds while I was under the snow at first, then I kind of ran out of oxygen and passed out,” said Huck.
Meanwhile, his wife managed to free herself from the snow. “I was inconsolable, I was hysterical. I was wondering if that was it and my husband was gone,” said Kahlynn.
Evan’s snowboard tip was sticking out of the snow and nearby skiers immediately began digging for him in a rescue that was captured in a video and posted on Twitter. Huck said he believes he was buried for up to six minutes.
As soon as his face was uncovered, “he opened his eyes and looked right at me and said, ‘Where’s my wife?’” skier Joe Breault told ABC7.
Huck thanked his rescuers for “being heroes and saving my life.”
Five people were buried in the avalanche. Two were taken to a nearby hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The Hucks walked away and planned to continue their snowboarding vacation.
The avalanche occurred amid a powerful blizzard that brought winds gusting to 150 mph on the summits and up to seven feet of snow over the space of a few days to ski hills in California’s Sierra Nevada range.
Two snowboarders at resorts in the area died during the severe weather. Snowboarder Wenyu Zhang, 42, was found dead at Squaw Valley Friday morning before the avalanche.
Another snowboarder, Blake Smith, 36, died Friday at the China Peak Ski Resort 65 miles northeast of Fresno. He apparently fell head-first into deep snow and suffocated before he could get out, police said.
Mammoth Ski Resort in the Sierras, about 300 miles north of Los Angeles, also had a major avalanche Saturday morning. Three people partially buried managed to free themselves, and the resort was reopened on Sunday.