Alex Giesbrecht is an experienced back country skier, who is a member of a ski patrol at a local resort near Golden, in the southeastern area of B.C. He also conducts avalanche safety training courses for a variety of user groups. On March 30th 2017, Alex and a group of 12 experienced skiers headed out for a day of back country skiing. The group used snowmobiles to climb to the top, designating one member of each pair to take the snowmobile down – the rest would ski down. On one run, Alex lost control and ran into a tree, fracturing 12 ribs and puncturing a lung, along with other serious impact injuries.
After a quick assessment of the extent of Alex’s injuries, the group pushed the SOS button on their SPOT Satellite Messenger, signaling emergency responders of the immediate need for rescue along with their GPS location coordinates.
“Fortunately for me, 10 of the 12 members of the group were highly trained, working with either ski patrol or local search and rescue,” says Alex. “One person attended to me for first aid. Another climbed up to a higher elevation where they could talk to the local search and rescue organization via two-way radio”.
A helicopter was dispatched and upon landing, a rescue team was transported by snowmobile to the accident site. Within 4 hours of the accident, Alex was receiving medical attention in Golden and later transported to the ICU in Cranbrook.
Six weeks following the accident, Alex has recovered and is back to hiking and other outdoor adventures. Looking back on his ski accident and rescue, Alex says he has learned a lot. “Anyone venturing out in the back country should make sure they would know what to do in event of an accident or injury. In the case of back country skiing they should take appropriate training because the time between an incident and when search and rescue can realistically get there, is critical. Carrying a GPS locator beacon such as a SPOT Satellite Messenger is an essential component of your backcountry tool kit, but training and preparation saves lives.”