A group of experienced snowboarders rushed to rescue two sports enthusiasts who got caught in an avalanche in Verbier, Switzerland, on January 30.
Professional snowboarder Victor Liebenguth captured this footage as he dug Emma Bodkin out of the snow, Storyful has confirmed.
Liebenguth was nearby when he saw the large avalanche and said there were possibly 10 people riding down the same face of the mountain at the same time, despite Verbier Ski Resort’s announcement of “very high avalanche danger” that day.
Liebenguth told Storyful almost a meter of snow had fallen on “a four-weeks-dry terrain,” leading to the avalanche risk.
“Unfortunately two girls were snowboarding in the middle of the face and the avalanche hit them so hard,” he said. He and his group of friends were “the first on site,” and immediately started to do “beacon research” to find those buried under the snow. “We quickly found the first one, second one was 70 m [230 ft] down the face and quickly rescued as well,” Liebenguth said.
Liebenguth told Storyful people are required to wear a beacon when free-riding, i.e., skiing or snowboarding on open terrain.
“The beacon is a tool that allows you to detect other people wearing a beacon in the same area, but also allows you to be detected in case you’re getting caught under an avalanche,” he said. “There’s basically two modes, like, ‘search mode’ and ‘transmission mode’.”
Liebenguth said the voices in the video are saying in French, “Put your beacons on search mode and start searching for potential other people caught in the avalanche.”
Liebenguth also told Storyful the orange bag seen in the video is an avalanche airbag Bodkin likely pulled when she was caught by the avalanche.
In his original Instagram caption Liebenguth warned of free-riding without proper equipment and knowledge. He said in the same post that he hopes the footage urges more people to seek proper training and education.
The Verbier Ski Resort posted a statement warning of the high avalanche danger and warned that free-riding and skiing “requires strong knowledge of conditions, terrain and great experience in risk assessment.” Credit: Victor Liebenguth via Storyful