(NEW YORK) — A quick-thinking 20-year-old Washington skier who was buried beneath an avalanche for up to 15 minutes managed to keep breathing until rescuers arrived by scooping snow away from her mouth.
Emily Anderson was skiing with a group at Crystal Mountain in Enumclaw, Wash., on Monday when more than 3 feet of snow cut loose, triggering an avalanche. She says when she looked down she saw the snow moving strangely beneath her.
“I saw, like, a crack, and, you know, you hear a little, a little pop when it starts to go. I realized that it was an avalanche and it just pushed me into a tree. And, all of a sudden, was encased and I couldn’t move,” Anderson told ABC’s Good Morning America.
When she became buried, her first thought, above everything else, was how to breathe. Anderson’s left hand could move just enough to get the snow away from her mouth.
“My head was down, facing down, a little bit and so I, like, had to kind of scoop the snow away. I breathed in snow a little bit — that was scary,” she said. “I was kind of in a sitting position, and my right arm was stuck out…. to my side … [I] couldn’t move it.”
Then a second wave hit her — a wave of fear that she might not be found.
“I felt very alone and I felt, you know, like — this could be it!” she said.
During Anderson’s ordeal, she was screaming, but buried under the snow, no one could hear her.
Luckily, a friend saw it happen and called for help. The ski patrol was there within minutes and began poking through the snow with long poles trying to find her.
Newman, a 4-year-old avalanche rescue dog, was there, too.
“Avalanche dogs are the best way to find somebody like Emily. This woman is lucky. The avalanche statistics say that once you’re buried without a trace to the surface, your chance of surviving that — statistically — is one out of three,” Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol Director Paul Baugher said.
Fifteen minutes later, she felt the poles poking through. They found her, and dug her out.
“I’m very lucky! Everything about it went my way — that’s for sure,” Anderson said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ralph Ellis and Ray Sanchez, CNN
Stephen Collinson, Jeremy Diamond and Karl de Vries, CNN