Video: skier buried in avalanche flags down helicopter with one free arm

Search and rescue helicopter flying over mountain range
(Image credit: Getty)

A skier buried up to his neck in an avalanche managed to successfully flag down a rescue helicopter, despite only having one arm free. The incident happened in the Liddes region of Switzerland last week.

The man (who hasn't been named) was reported missing at 5:41pm after he failed to return from a ski touring expedition. He had told his family which route he planned to take, and sent them a photo partway through his journey, which helped a rescue crew from Air Glaciers narrow down their search.

Eventually they found signs of tracks, and a team began searching the ground while a helicopter continued to survey the area from above. By this time night had fallen, making the operation much more challenging.

Suddenly, a member of the helicopter crew spotted the missing man. The video below, recorded by paramedic Mathieu Lambert, shows the helicopter's searchlight just managing to pick out his waving arm.

The man had been trapped for over six hours, and was suffering mild hypothermia, but was uninjured. One rescuer was lowered from the helicopter and began working to extract him while waiting for backup to arrive. Eventually he was winched up and flown to safety.

Avalanches are a hazard of most winter sports, but are much more likely to happen in the backcountry than on groomed slopes. The best way to keep yourself safe is to take an avalanche safety course, which will teach you how to recognize unstable snow, show you ways to navigate out of an avalanche, and explain how to use an avalanche beacon.

You should also make sure you are with other people who are also trained in avalanche safety. If a person is buried in an avalanche, their chances of survival drop rapidly after the first 15 minutes, so timing is crucial.

For more advice, see our guide avalanche safety: an introduction to the risks and warning signs.

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.