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Watch: Skier and Snowboarder Narrowly Escape Avalanche on Mt. Washington

Last week, a hiker on New Hampshire’s Mount Washington managed to film the terrifying moment in which a snowboarder and skier were nearly engulfed by an avalanche. 

The hiker, RJ Phipps, was walking along Mount Washington’s Tuckerman Ravine on February 25, 2023. He had just lifted his camera to capture some photos of the scenery when he noticed a snowboarder and skier on the hillside ahead of him. Just then, the slope’s surface cracked open, and thousands of pounds of snow began to tumble down the mountain, scooping up the snowboarder in its path. After being carried more than 100 vertical feet downhill atop the surging river of snow, the snowboarder came to a rest, unburied—and alive. Both the skier and snowboarder escaped uninjured.

Jeff Fongemie, the acting director of the Mount Washington Avalanche Center, told Fox News that the the skier probably triggered the avalanche when they touched a particularly delicate portion of the snowpack on accident. The person was experienced with backcountry terrain and avalanche safety precautions, officials report, but likely misjudged the conditions. Fongemie called the the pair’s survival “luck,” speaking to CBS News, noting that once you find yourself in that type of situation, “you just hope for the best”.

Avalanche forecasts for that day in Tuckerman Ravine listed the probability of an avalanche as “considerable.” That indicates a high likelihood of dangerous slides. This particular avalanche was big enough to “easily bury and kill a person,” Fongemie said in an interview with CBS News.

Mount Washington is known for its harsh weather. Avalanches are common this time of year, especially on steeper slopes like those surrounding Tucker Ravine. However, avalanche-related deaths are relatively rare in this region of New Hampshire. The last avalanche fatality on Mount Washington occurred in February of 2021. Also in 2021, two skiers triggered a slide near the top of Left Gully, a popular ski run within Tuckerman Ravine. Both survived the avalanche, but one was hospitalized with injuries related to the accident.

In interviews, Fongemie urged skiers and snowboarders to make thoughtful choices when selecting backcountry terrain. While the snowboarder and skier in the video both survived, their close call serves as a valuable reminder of the danger of avalanches. Before you go out, make sure you have the right safety gear and avalanche education to minimize risks in the mountains, particularly after heavy snowstorms. You can check avalanche forecasts and sign up for an avalanche safety training course at avalanche.org.

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