A skier is rescued to have been rescued alive despite being buried three metres below the snow for more than an hour after getting trapped in an avalanche.

Three skiers were skiing in a steep off-piste area at the Swiss destination of Jaun on Monday last week when the avalanche occurred.

The avalanche risk at the time was set at 3 (considerable) out of 5 on the European Avalanche Danger Scale and an avalanche 50 metres wide and 250 metres long was set off engulfing the three skiers.

A witness called immediately for emergency assistance and a rescue team from REGA (Swiss Air-Rescue) came by helicopter with an avalanche dog and a RECCO detector. A 22-year-old man got buried completely.

Linus Buchs, in charge of the rescue operation and former Head of Rescue in Jaun, said that none of the skiers were equipped with a transceiver, shovel or probe.

“The avalanche dog marked a zone after 10 minutes, but the probing was unsuccessful. The rescue team immediately got a signal nearby with the RECCO detector and was able to pinpoint the victim,” said Buchs, who continued,

“The position of the victim was confirmed with the probe and after 40 minutes of digging, the skier was found alive and conscious on a depth of 3.20 meters. He was rescued about 1 hour and 10 minutes after the burial and transported to the hospital. He is fine today.”

The skier was wearing an Arc’teryx jacket, one of many items of skiwear (including helmets and boots) that come with an integrated RECCO rescue reflector which make it possible for professional rescuers with RECCO detectors using harmonic radar to search for you, including through snow. 

The detectors are used by more than 800 rescue organisations worldwide to compliment other searching methods including rescue dogs but are not however a substitute for a transceiver, shovel and probe used for companion rescue.

(Please note that images, copyright RECCO, are of a simulated rescue operation, for illustration, and not of the rescue operation reported).