Snowboarder credits inflatable backpack for saving him in avalanche
Published Thursday, January 12, 2017 8:58AM PST
Last Updated Thursday, January 12, 2017 6:20PM PST
An Australian snowboarder survived a hair-raising few moments in B.C. when he got caught up in an avalanche Wednesday morning.
Tom Oye, who has been living in Whistler for about three years, was boarding in the Brandywine backcountry when the snow cracked beneath him.
“You try and educate yourself as much as you can but it doesn’t prepare you for when it actually happens to you. At the time it felt like it was really going slow-motion. It moved quite slow at the start and I thought ‘Aw, this is not too bad,’ and then maybe a second later I thought, ‘Actually no, I’m possibly in a bit of trouble here.’”
The 29-year-old says he managed to stay on top of the massive slide of snow by activating a special inflatable backpack, an early birthday present from his friends in Australia.
“I’ve only taken it out a handful of times. I wasn’t planning on using it so early but I’m glad I had it. Big thanks to those guys back home that’s for sure,” he said.
Oye checked the Avalanche Canada website before heading out to ride and said from now on he will do more localized research about weather conditions.
“Having an avalanche backpack doesn’t save you from bad decision-making,” he said. “You shouldn’t expect to get away with things just because you’ve got one on.”
The entire ordeal was captured on camera and posted to Oye's Facebook page. The video has been viewed more than four million times since it was posted Wednesday. Oye’s family described their reactions to the video on Australian television.
“I actually had a panic attack. I just burst into tears instantly and couldn’t breathe,” said Oye’s sister Alicia.
“The more you see it the more you realize how lucky he was,” said Oye’s father Peter.
Mountain guide Conny Amelunxen has the same inflatable safety pack and said they are becoming an important tool for backcountry enthusiasts. The packs range in price from about $600 to $1900.
“Everything went well for him… it’s what the bags are supposed to do,” Amelunxen said.
Oye was not injured in the incident and was back on his board the next day.
With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Scott Hurst