A back country skier fell near Berthoud Pass and suffered a terrible injury. Leonard Somers had fallen into a ravine hitting his back on a frozen tree trunk, puncturing his neck and causing spinal injuries. He was unable to move his legs. Somers’ husky left his side only long enough to get the attention of other skiers. The husky was successful in leading help back to Somers, and Flight for Life rushed Somers to St. Anthony Medical Center in Lakewood where he underwent emergency surgery.
With both feet in casts, Somers isn’t sure he will ever walk again. When he’s released from St. Anthony, Somers will transfer to the Craig Rehabilitation Hospital to continue his treatment.
His is a feel-good story with a relatively happy ending. But the facts clearly demonstrate the need for adequate safety provisions when back country skiing. Most folks do not have a hero-husky to rely upon, so technical rescue equipment is needed.
Even the most knowledgeable and cautious backcountry skier can get caught in an avalanche or experience a fall. All backcountry skiers should always carry safety gear. This includes:
1) an avalanche beacon (also known as a transceiver)
2) an avalanche shovel
3) a probe
4) a backcountry skiing partner who also has rescue gear and training. Skiing alone in the backcountry is never a good idea.
Many avalanche professionals suggest also wearing an Avalung, which is a device to help you breathe if buried by snow. Even better, there is a product called the Snowpulse Avalanche Airbag that is proven to prevent most avalanche burials and protect your vital organs from trauma.