2 men survive avalanche in Colorado backcountry

AP News
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Posted: Apr 01, 2011 9:57 PM
2 men survive avalanche in Colorado backcountry

Two men survived an avalanche Friday in central Colorado's backcountry, including one who was completely buried in snow and used his hand to make an air pocket so he could breathe while awaiting help.

The slide happened near U.S. 6 across from the Arapahoe Basin ski resort, on the Continental Divide. It ran 1,000 feet and carried the men about 400 feet, said Summit County Rescue Group spokesman Jim Koegel.

Skier Nate Purcell, 38, was partially buried and was taken to a hospital with a broken leg, Koegel said. He called for help using a cellphone.

Snowboarder Daniel Ferrari, 42, was uninjured despite being completely buried in the slide and dug out by rescuers, Koegel told KYSL-FM in Dillon. Ferrari told rescuers he also bounced off some trees.

He created an air pocket with his hand so he could breathe, and he yelled out to rescuers as he heard them approaching, Koegel said. Koegel added it was a shallow burial.

KUSA-TV in Denver reported the men were found about 30 minutes after the avalanche.

Purcell and Ferrari are both expert backcountry skiers from Summit County who were carrying proper avalanche gear, but they may have started their descent too late in the day, when it was starting to get warm, Koegel said. He said the pair didn't descend until about 11:45 a.m.

The Colorado Avalanche and Information Center says wet, loose avalanches can become more common as temperatures rise.

"Wet slab releases don't go easily like dry, light snow. But when they go, they go big," Koegel said.

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Information from: Summit Daily News, http://www.summitdaily.com/