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Skier survives being 'critically buried' in an avalanche in the White Mountains

This photo provided by Mount Washington Avalanche Center shows the aftermath of an avalanche on Mount Washington on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023.
Jeff Fongemie
Associated Press / Mount Washington Avalanche Center
This photo shows the aftermath of a separate avalanche incident Mount Washington on Feb. 25, 2023.

A skier who was buried in snow for about 6 1/2 minutes after getting caught in an avalanche in New Hampshire's White Mountains this week was dug out by a companion and survived uninjured, authorities said.

Three skiers originally ascended what's known as Wildcat-B/Carter Notch on Wednesday morning, according to a release from the Mount Washington Avalanche Center, but one turned back after deciding that the conditions were too risky.

Jeff Fongemie, the interim director of the avalanche center, described them Friday as "experienced back country skiers," who were equipped with beacons, shovels and probes.

One of the two remaining skiers began descending and unintentionally triggered an avalanche. That person was swept 500 vertical feet (152 meters) down a narrow gully before coming to rest buried and unable to move anything, except for one hand, according to the avalanche center, a division of the U.S. Forest Service.

The person was "critically buried," meaning there was possibility of a blocked airway and was life-threatening, Fongemie said.

The other skier began a search with an avalanche beacon, but could not find a signal. That person then saw a hand sticking out of the snow and started digging, successfully extracting the buried skier and freeing their airway after about 6 1/2 minutes, the center said.

The freed skier was conscious and unhurt and the pair left the area on their own. They self-reported the incident to the center, Fongemie said.

The avalanche center said it does not release names.

"We encourage people in these types of situations to reach out to report avalanches to us because they can be a tremendously helpful way to inform other skiers," Fongemie said.

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