A dramatic video showing a skier rescuing a snowboarder stuck in a tree well on Mount Baker in Washington state earlier this season has gained nearly half a million views after the rescuer posted it to social media last week.
Francis Zuber, who is from New York, says he was skiing in a remote area on the mountain — located about 140 kilometres southeast of Vancouver — on March 3 when he noticed a flash of red out of the corner of his eye.
The video, which he originally posted to YouTube, shows Zuber struggling to move through deep, powdery snow to get to the snowboarder. With only the board visible, Zuber frantically dug down with his hands at first to expose the snowboarder’s face.
“That was a huge relief, knowing he was going to be OK,” Zuber said.
Zuber estimates the snowboarder, Ian Steger, had only a few minutes left before suffocating.
“We figure [he was buried] somewhere between five and seven minutes, he was probably at either a third or just the halfway point of his possible survival time in there,” Zuber said.
The end of the video shows Zuber pulling gear out of his bag, such as a snow shovel, to fully dig out Steger.
Zuber says he and Steger, who is from Washington State, have become good friends since and even went skiing at Mount Baker together on the weekend.
Steger was not available for a full interview, but said he wants to “enjoy being alive.”
Mount Baker CEO Gwyn Howat said watching the rescuer take all the right steps to aid and eventually free Steger was “super gratifying.”
She says more than 90 per cent of people stuck in deep snow or a tree well cannot extricate themselves from the snow. She recommends riders remain within view of people they are skiing or snowboarding with.
“If you go to the bottom of the lift and wait for your friend there, it’s going to be too late,” said Howat.
Zuber said Steger was with a group of three other riders, who were experienced and were carrying beacons, shovels, probes, and two-way radios.