Buried for nearly an hour; Local skier recounts being trapped in Silver Mountain avalanche
Local ski enthusiast Bill Fuzak recounted his experience after being trapped in the avalanche at Silver Mountain on Tuesday.
The avalanche struck the Wardner Peak area Tuesday morning. Rescue crews recovered seven people, two of whom had died. Currently, Ski Patrol and search and rescue teams are back on the mountain after a report of a missing skier.
Fuzak posted his experience in the avalanche to a Facebook group Wednesday morning, thanking his rescuers and volunteers for their work.
He explained that he was part of a larger group of skiers and snowboarders who had crossed onto the Wardner Traverse, which he said had recently reopened. They were reportedly given clearance to ‘cut the traverse,’ and they set off.
Fuzak said the group partially split up, and someone he was with noticed that the snow began to fracture above and below them, warning the others calmly that “it’s giving way, try to stay on top.” Fuzak said he lost his left ski almost immediately afterward, and fell over while trying to release his right ski.
Next thing he knew, he was overwhelmed with snow.
He described swimming to stay above the surface and failing, as he was pulled under the snow. Fuzak said it began to compress around him, and he began punching upwards to create an air hole. After reaching the surface with his hand, he started carving the snow away from around his face so he could breathe.
Then another slide hit, burying him further and filling in the hole he made.
He said at this point he had accepted the inevitable, giving himself from space to breathe underneath the snow, but he eventually passed out.
“I was in no pain and knew I wasn’t injured,” Fuzak recounted, “I’m really surprised how calm I felt but knew there was nothing I could do but wait and pray.”
When he came to, Fuzak described being pulled out of the snow by rescuers, waking to the sound of cheering. He was told after the fact that his lips were blue and he was unconscious, but otherwise sustained only minor injuries. Fuzak said he was transported down to a maintenance building to be checked out by medical staff, where he talked with other rescued skiers.
“I cannot give enough thanks and compliments for the effort shown by the Silver Mountain Ski Patrol, Search and Rescue volunteers as well as other skiers and riders that played a role in saving my life and the other riders lives,” he concluded, “My family especially wants to thank them all for saving us. My heart goes out to the families of the two riders that did not survive.”
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