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Avalanche - Xavier de Le Rue

Rooster TV
snowboarding Video
From Rooster TV
Uploaded 24 November 2008

It was the second day that we were filming in southern Wallis next to the little town called Orcieres. I was out with my mate, professional freeskier Henrik Windstedt, on a photo shoot with Christopher Sjorström and Miriam Lang Willar and a mountain guide, for two days in the area near Orcières, close to my home in the border region between France and Switzerland. We had a helicopter that was able to bring us quickly upwards and to take shots from the air. After skiing four smaller lines, I looked at a spectacular north face that was about 2,500 metres high. The snow conditions were quite stable and got us more and more confident but we still knew that there was a sketchy layer underneath that last big snowfall and that we still had to be careful. We took off quite late, around 12 cause the heli was not available before and up there in these north faces we didn't really feel the temperature rising. We were riding these mini golf lines that felt just great and the only small slap that went didn't really warn us that much and we didn't feel like taking that much of a risk going in this face...that was partly already tracked. As we were getting filmed from the heli and as the lines were not extreme at all, we took it quite easy, doing some nice turns, probably way less focused than earlier in the day. At the top of my line, Ididn't really take the time to get to feel and study deeply my line. The heli was standing in the air waiting so I kind of had to hurry to strap in and drop into the shred. When that small slab broke I just pointed down towards my right, and kind of got away from the big cloud. I tumbled and kept going but I still had some advance to reach that spine where I would be or think to be safe but here is what I didn't expect: the small avalanche put pressure on the bottom of the slope which released all around me. Suddenly all I could see was just a giant puzzle and of course no escape. It felt natural to just pull the handle of my abs and hope for the best. As the huge washing machine tumbled me like I never felt anything close, I just fell unconscious until they found me around 10 min later. I was a wreck. Henrik had luckily found me and taken out the snow from my mouth and cut the strap of my helmet that was strangling me. I didn't respond for 15 min. It must have been the worst time for these guys... I have very vague memories of this phase as well as some from my heli ride with the rescue team that arrived maybe half an hour later. I can still remember the noise of the heli with the wind in my face as well as the guys that were with me. When I got to hospital, everything started to get better and better. I remember fighting in my head to really get everything back which came along with the positive results of all the scans and test they would have done on me. My wife was there on my side as well as a lot of friends that were filming in the area. It was just a miracle... I looked pretty bad with my red eyes that I kept for about a month and the only injury I had was a torn internal ligament on my knee. After two km and 1200 meters getting smashed in the biggest avalanche... All I can say is that some miracle happened that 29th of March... It was not my time to leave that day...
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