How did a Colorado skier survive being swept 2,000 feet down mountainside in avalanche?

Avalanche on mountain
The backcountry skier was swept out of view of their companion on Buffalo Mountain (Image credit: Getty)

Winter is showing no signs of abating in Colorado's mountains and while that makes for epic powder skiing in the backcountry, it also means high avalanche risk – something one skier learned the hard way last week.

On Thursday, March 28, a skier was swept 2,000 feet down Buffalo Mountain when an avalanche struck. Buffalo Mountain is a 12,777 foot peak that looms over Silverthorne and Frisco on the north side of I-70. According to a Facebook post, Summit County Rescue Group received an alert at 10:14 a.m. that an avalanche had occurred in Silver Couloir.

"Initial reports were of a skier who was swept out of sight of their companion, who had begun a transceiver search while descending the path. Ultimately, the injured party was found to be close to the toe of the slide, and with what were believed to be mild to moderate injuries."

The report continues that the avalanche didn't seem substantial in size, but the "significant" vertical drop allowed it to carry the skier over half a kilometer, more than enough to "cause serious injury or even death."

POC Dimension Avalanche Backpack

An avalanche airbag is designed to fit inside a ski backpack and keep you afloat (Image credit: POC)

However, the skier was prepared for avalanche conditions, deploying their airbag, which meant they were never fully buried by snow or debris. An avalanche airbag is designed to fit inside a ski backpack and when activated, fills with gas to keep you afloat in a slide, and create a pocket of air around you so you can breathe if you do get buried. They were also able to activate their Garmin InReach GPS device, which meant rescuers were able to locate them despite "very spotty cell coverage" in the area.

Due to high winds, rescue crews deployed on foot and placed the injured party in a toboggan before skiing them out and transporting them to the hospital via ambulance for treatment. 

This incident could have been a lot worse, but fortunately, it appears the skier had avalanche safety training and was able to employ safety tools. SCRG reminds backcountry adventurers to immediately call 911 before calling anyone else if you see an avalanche.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.