A group of skiers who came to the aid of a man buried by an avalanche is being credited with saving the stranger's life.

A backcountry skier had to be lifted to safety on Saturday, a moment rescuers say may not have been possible if the group of Good Samaritans hadn't come to his aid.

Julian Stoddart was one of five skiers spending the day on Hollyburn Mountain who spotted someone near a pile of debris down Tony Baker Gully.

"At first it's kind of confusing when you see a scene like that, because it's not every day we actually see or stumble upon an avalanche," Stoddart recalled to CTV News.

They approached what they thought was a lone skier and learned that he was trying to dig out his friend, a 67-year-old man who was buried in about two metres of snow.

"There was a risk of snow falling into the hole that his partner had dug, so at that point it certainly wasn't clear that he was able to breathe very well," Stoddart said.

The group pitched in, digging the man free with shovels they'd carried with them. They also had camp stoves they used to keep the stuck skier warm.

They cut boughs off nearby trees, turning the branches into a makeshift floor, then tried to insulate him as much as possible with their backpacks and clothing, Stoddart said.

"They warmed up a lot of water and put them in bottles next to his skin."

Stoddart made his way to an area with cellphone service, then called 911 and North Shore Rescue. Crews were able to reach the area and airlift the skier to hospital.

North Shore Rescue's Mike Danks said the man, who is being treated for pelvic and leg fractures, is lucky to have lived through the incident.

"I really credit those guys with saving this man's life," Danks said.

"They were very experienced backcountry skiers, they had a wealth of equipment with them, and they really made the day."

Stoddart said he and his friends are just thankful that they were in the right place at the right time.

With a report from CTV Vancouver's Maria Weisgarber