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Avalanche survivors share their story in the hopes of saving lives

Risk of avalanche stays high in Sea to Sky country


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"I was kind of blind from where I was, but when I came around towards the cliff I could see both Lee and Richard. They were pretty banged up but they weren't buried in the snow. From that point on I felt a lot better, I didn't know whether they were hurt or not but I knew they were alive."

Both men had been shot off the 16-metre cliff at high speed, both somehow avoiding fatal collisions with protruding rocks. During the resulting tumbles Lau again puts his training into action by making swimming motions and keeping his hands in front of his face to create an air pocket. Once the debris pile came to rest and he realized he was not buried, Lau's first reaction was to make sure his airway was clear. He could breathe.

Lau's second reaction was to yell for Drechsler, knowing that his friend had just gone off the same cliff. Drechsler answered, his voice carrying from hundreds of metres uphill. Lau self-extricated from the debris and wanted to check that his friend was out of range of the "hangfire" — snow above the crown face of the avalanche that hasn't released in a slide — but realized that his own injuries were not going to let him move anywhere quickly. While he had no critical injuries — his head and neck had not suffered any major trauma — both his knees had been wrenched by the impact, as had his shoulder, and he was coughing up blood.

Post headed to his friends as quickly as possible and as they re-grouped they sized up their situation. Post was uninjured and mobile, while both Lau and Drechsler were unable to ski out. With Lau coughing up blood, there was a chance he had sustained internal injuries. Lau took out the VHF radio which he had carried in his pack for five years — and never used — and made the call to Whistler Ski Patrol dispatch. The cavalry was soon on its way with a helicopter, dispatched to their location to whisk the party to the Whistler Medical Clinic.

Though uninjured, Post did not return into the winter backcountry for almost a year. A self-confessed weekend warrior, Post skis around Whistler and enjoys touring more than skiing the resort. The avalanche ended the 2010 season for Drechsler, who currently lives in Squamish and works in minerals exploration for resource firms in the Yukon, though he was out skiing the backcountry — mainly in Whistler — the following season.


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