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  • 11 December 2013, 14:07

US Off-Piste Skier Survives Avalanche Fall

An off-piste skier who was caught on video being dragged into a ravine in Utah and buried in snow has miraculously survived the ordeal.

The unnamed woman lived because she deployed a special air bag in her backpack and other skiers were able to dig her out quickly, witnesses said.

Joe Campanelli was filming the sun-covered Wasatch mountains with his smart phone when the skier descended into a steep gully filled with loose snow in Grizzly Gulch, a short distance from the Alta ski area near Salt Lake City.

"That is not a good slope to ski," Mr Campanelli is heard to say on the recording. Moments later, the slope cracked and he says: "You're in a slide, bud!"

He abruptly stopped recording to go to her help.

His friend, Aaron Rice, said he used an avalanche beacon and a probe to track her down, then dug her out with help from others. She was buried in several feet of snow.

"She was breathing, talking," Mr Rice said. "She said, 'Thank you. I can't believe you got here so quickly.' She was completely shaken up."

The woman was swept about 100 feet down the gully at an angle of about 40 degrees, according to a report on the Utah Avalanche Centre's website.

She was lucky to be alive and escape injury, the centre's Bruce Tremper said, adding that Utah averages about four avalanche deaths a year.

"It's a crapshoot - a game of Russian roulette," he said. "People may perceive a slope to be safe, but there are booby traps all around."

The skier's descent into the gully was so steep and short there was not enough time for the air bag to keep her above the roiling snow.

However, it might have helped keep her from being buried for longer, and under much deeper snow, officials said.

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