We don’t often think about the power of snow. When it falls, we’re most likely to float away into the fuzzy good feeling of existing within a snow globe. Then blizzards happen. Storms happen. Avalanches happen. Then we’re swiftly reminded that the fluffy white stuff isn’t just snowballs and snowmen.
Most roofs are — at least they should be — built to withstand snow loads of 15 to 30 pounds per square foot. That’s pretty heavy, but roofs are built for such things. The human body? Not so much.
The French Alps are a beautiful snow-laden skiing paradise. Renowned around the world, they attract snow sports enthusiasts from everywhere. One group of seven young skiers was enjoying the trails of the resort La Plagne when the mountain decided it would remind them that Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with.
One boy — 12 years old — went ahead of the group before the rest of them witnessed a mass of snow come apart from the mountain and sweep him away in an avalanche. At 7,875 feet of altitude, this 12 year old kid was gone. Then the search began.
Helicopters, rescue crews, and police dogs scoured the mountainside to find him. Time is crucial in avalanche rescue because beyond 15 minutes buried beneath snow massively lowers the chances of survival. After 40 minutes, dogs found him buried under the snow, but very much alive. The avalanche had dragged him at least 110 yards down the mountain.
“We can call it a miracle. A day after Christmas, there was another gift in store,” said Police Captain Patrice Ribes.
Other than being justifiably shaken up by the situation, he was otherwise fine. In skiing areas like the French Alps, it’s common for more advanced skiers who ride the most dangerous trails to have avalanche detectors on their person. A GPS locator built for situations like this. This young man didn’t have one and was extremely fortunate that he was rescued.
Authorities said he survived for as long as he did because his breathing was not blocked by snow. He was helicopter rescued, then brought to a local hospital to have a check up.