Jason Parker considers himself extremely fortunate to be alive after getting caught in an avalanche while snowboarding at Palisades Tahoe ski resort on January 11th. He was completely buried under about four feet of snow for nearly ten minutes before being located by rescuers.
The harrowing ordeal began when Parker, an experienced 52-year-old skier from Reno with over 35 years on the slopes, decided to take advantage of the first opening day for the KT-22 chairlift despite the high winds and low visibility.
After a successful first run down the right side of the peak, Parker and his fiancée went back up, intending to traverse the left side for their second run.
Parker went first, and about five seconds after feeling some harmless sloughing of snow, he found himself swept off his feet by the sudden avalanche. He tried staying on top as the snow carried him down the slope but rapidly accelerated upon reaching a gulley.
Flung onto his stomach and heading headfirst down the mountain, Parker had the presence of mind to yell to nearby skiers in hopes they would witness where he ended up.
Entombed Under Dense Snow, Calm Acceptance Sets In
The snowslide soon slowed before settling around Parker, abruptly entombing him under about four feet of tightly packed snow. With only seconds to react, he made the split-second decision to punch a small air hole in front of his face, allowing him to breathe while desperately yelling for help.
However, he found he could not move his body an inch under the oppressive weight of the dense snow. He heard nothing outside of the icy walls pressed upon him, his cries muffled in the compacted space.
Adrenaline pumping through his system, Parker consciously worked to calm his breathing despite his racing heart, fully aware that his limited pocket of oxygen would only diminish quickly if he panicked. He tried to ration each breath, stretching out the seconds between inhales.
Mentally, he attempted to enter a state of meditative calm, knowing fear and hyperventilation would drain his resources faster.