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Backcountry skier rescued after becoming trapped under avalanche

SAN JUAN COUNTY, Colo. — A backcountry skier was saved in a harrowing rescue Monday after getting trapped under several feet of snow because of an avalanche south of Silverton in San Juan County, the Silverton Standard & the Miner reported.

Two skiers from Durango were in the Deer Creek area on Coal Bank Pass. As they were leaving the creek to return to the road, they realized they were in the wrong spot and tried to make it down a slope to U.S. 550.

“That is when the avalanche cracked on the slope, pulling one person over a 25-foot cliff,” San Juan County Search-and-Rescue team leader Jim Donovan told the newspaper.

The skier was knocked off his feet, then flew off the cliff, landing on the highway and getting buried in at least 4 feet of packed snow.

The other skier jumped down a cliff and used a beacon locator to find his friend.

While digging, avalanche professional Mike Barney came upon the slide while traveling back to Silverton from Durango with his wife.

Barney had avalanche equipment and helped the skier’s friend and another person who happened upon the slide to dig out the trapped man.

Donovan told the newspaper the trapped skier used an Avalung device and was able to breathe until he was dug out. The skier did not report to be injured after he was freed.