Every skier's worst nightmare is being caught in an avalanche or tree well and never being found. It's a terrifying thought. If you are with friends and they are on the ball, they will come to your rescue and you might be one of the lucky survivors.
Sadly there are many who aren't. This summer just past professional freeskier Matilda Rapaport was caught in an avalanche and died.
There are dozens of ski rescues on video, filmed unwittingly while skiing or snowboarding in the mountains. These ski rescue videos are simultaneously terrifying and strangely compelling. Watch and learn. It might just save your life. Read our beginners guide to backcountry skiing and snowboarding here.
SKI RESCUES: TREE WELLS
Tree wells are one of the biggest killers in the mountains, responsible for 20 per cent of all ski-related deaths.
What is a tree well? It usually forms under a big evergreen tree after a big dump of snow. Low hanging branches stop the snow from collecting around the base of a tree, creating a hollow.
90 per cent of people who fall into tree wells can’t get themselves out because they are often wedged head first underneath the snow.
This video shows what happened when a group of regular backcountry skiers had to rescue a team member when he fell into a tree well. This guy was lucky that his friends were on the scene quickly to help dig him out.
SKI RESCUES: HANGING FROM A CHAIRLIFT
Imagine, it's another day on the hill and suddenly the chairlift stops. You think it is just a kook that's tripped while disembarking at the top. Actually there's an entirely different reason your chairlift has ground to a halt. Halfway along, some kid has decided it would be a good idea to slip under the safety barrier and dangle from the chairlift. That's what happened to the people in this ski rescue video. Luckily these guys were around to help out and catch the kid when he finally let go. How did he even get to that stage?
SKI RESCUES: COMPLETE AVALANCHE BURIAL AND RESCUE
Now this is a video that will get your heart going. This guy was skiing some powder with friends when one of their team got caught in an avalanche. Skiers have the added bonus over snowboarders by having ski poles as telltales after an avalanche. These guys acted quickly and managed to find their friend. It just goes to show, it only takes a few seconds and you can be buried nearly two metres under the snow. As ski rescues go, this is definitely one of the most terrifying.
SKI RESCUES: LE GRAVE SKI PATROLLERS
If you want a really good, short documentary-style video about ski rescues, watch this. La Grave in France is one of the gnarliest lift-accessible skiing spots in the world with a nearly 2,000m vertical descent. There is one lift, one piste and the rest is just a huge, steep glacier with insane drops, couloirs and crevasses to watch out for. You can see what it’s like from the ski patrollers’ perspective advising folks in these parts.
SKI RESCUES: DAD RESCUES SON FROM TREE WELL
Just a father and son out enjoying the fresh snow when disaster strikes. The son finds himself totally engulfed in a tree well - thankfully his dad was on the scene immediately, ready to pull him out. The son's screams are chilling. You can just imagine being stuck in there yourself. The more you struggle, the further you sink. Scary stuff.
A few words from Ed Leigh asking Verbier ski guide for his top tips about how to stay alive off-piste.