Terrifying GoPro video shows skier swept away in avalanche

Avalanche on mountain
(Image credit: Getty)

A skier's action cam captured the moment he was caught in an avalanche, and swept down a mountain by its unstoppable force.

The video (which you can watch below) was shot by Owen Leeper and shared by winter sports site SnowBrains, where he is a contributor. It shows Leeper tackling a backcountry chute in the backcountry at Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Things start out as planned, but on the third turn a slab of snow comes loose underneath Leeper, who is knocked off his feet. What follows is a terrifying first-person ride down the mountainside as the torrent of snow and ice accelerates, its sheer force hurling Leeper into rocky outcrops along the way.

"I tried digging my hands in to stop me from sliding, but the snow grabbed my skis," Leeper explained on Instagram. "I tried to reach for my airbag, but my shoulder was buried in the snow and I couldn't get to it before bracing for impact on the rocks."

Leeper explained that throughout the fall, he focused all his efforts on keeping his feet underneath him, particularly after the first collision with the rocks. At one point he had to use his hands to avoid hitting his face, which dislocated his shoulder.

Amazingly, that was the only injury he suffered, having bounced over the last band of rocks. He and a friend attempted to relocate the shoulder themselves, but eventually decided to call Teton County Search and Rescue for assistance.

Understanding the risks

Leeper explained that the avalanche forecast was moderate when he set out, but he wasn't too worried because the snow had had several days to settle (avalanches being more common soon after fresh snowfall). He didn't expect snowmelt to be a problem either, as windy conditions had kept the chute cold.

He was more concerned about the rocks, and had abandoned two previous attempts early due to the terrain.

"Every day in the mountains is risky, there isn't one day of the season where the avalanche danger is 'none'," he wrote. "Every backcountry skier understands the risks. The important thing is to minimize risks where possible, but you can't remove all risk while pursuing extreme skiing."

Leeper clearly had avalanche training, as he knew to keep his head above his feet, had an airbag (even though he wasn't able to deploy it) and wasn't alone. For more advice on how to stay safe, check out our guide to avalanche safety.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.