On January 22nd 2010, Chris Farro went through one of the scariest experiences of his life. He pitched forward off a 35 foot cliff into 8 feet of powder. Normally, the more powder the better when dropping large cliffs; however, this day the powder was so deep, he was instantly buried without air. Matt cook was close by, having dropped the cliff minutes earlier, but to trek up-hill in 8 feet of snow is next to impossible. It was his determination and will power combined with Chris’ smart senses to not panic that may have saved Chris’ life.
Matt was about 50 feet below Chris at impact. It took about 3 minutes for him to get up to Chris. When Chris first hit, only his feet were sticking out of the snow. He wasn’t moving them, trying to stay calm and breathing slowly – he knew we would be there to help him out. When Chris was buried, he took off his glove to try to get snow away from his mouth and dig out. As he did that, more snow fell into his mouth, so he decided to sit and wait. If you’ve ever had your hands out of your gloves for 30 seconds on a chairlift on a cold day, you know Chris’ hand was starting to freeze after a few minutes. As the time went on, Chris started getting tunnel vision, and his brain was trying to turn off. He fought it and tried to stay alert. He couldn’t hear anything from under the snow and didn’t hear Matt yelling to him. Matt was finally able to get close enough to where he could hit Chris’ feet with his ski pole – this was an instant relief for Chris, as he knew it was a matter of seconds before he’d be able to breathe again.
Even being this close to him, Matt started to panic, thinking he couldn’t make it any further. He had hit a wall of snow that was seemingly impassible and any time he tried to get higher, he just sank deeper. He decided to start digging straight into where he was and eventually reached Chris under the snow. He grabbed his hands and dragged him out, cleared the snow from his face and the two finally took a breath of relief. They sat both exhausted beyond belief.
All of us were standing by and knew there was nothing we could do. Matt was the closest and there was no way any of us could make it up to Chris in time. We were lucky and fortunate Matt was in the position that he was and that everyone stayed composed and knew exactly what to do. We learned a lot that day and were thankful for having friends close. Lesson? Don’t ski alone in deep powder – it could cost you your life.
This past weekend a woman named Erica Patterson was found dead by Chair 12 at Mammoth Mountain. She reportedly got stuck in a tree well and possibly died from lack of air. We wish all the best to friends and family. Read up on the safety and dangers of skiing in powder conditions here.