A snowboarder from Idaho is lucky to be alive after being carried 600 feet in a monstrous avalanche at Grand Teton National Park last week.
Early Monday morning, Benton Hodges, Charlie Pirc, and two other friends set out for Albright Peak for a day of snowboarding. After reaching their starting point, Pirc volunteered to go first, his snowboard streaking 250 feet down the mountain’s forested face.
As he began to slow his pace, the snowboarder radioed up to his companions to let them know it was safe to send the next man down after him. Seconds later, however, the three friends received another message. “I’m sliding, I’m sliding,” Pirc said into the radio.
The friends’ momentary confusion soon turned to panic when a deafening cracking noise echoed over the slope – the unmistakable sound of trees giving way to a torrent of snow and debris barreling down the mountainside. Looking down the mountain, Hodges saw the massive powder cloud explode up from the ground, confirming the avalanche in which his friend was caught.
Grand Teton later confirmed the avalanche, reporting that the crown was a staggering 300 feet across. The snow plunged down 2,400 feet of the slope into Death Canyon, sending Pirc ricocheting through trees and rocks before finally crashing into a tree 600 feet below his starting point.
As his friend Hodges reported, Charlie Pirc miraculously survived the avalanche, though not without suffering severe injuries. During the slide and subsequent crash, Pirc broke a few ribs, lacerated his liver, and damaged his lungs.
Thankfully, Grand Teton first responders and Search and Rescue responded to the incident quickly. After landing a few hundred feet below Pirc’s position, rescue crews transported him to a nearby hospital for treatment.
The horrific incident marked the second skier/snowboarder caught in a large avalanche in the Tetons this winter. Both survived the catastrophic event. As Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr explained, however, they were exceedingly lucky to have done so.
“In both of these situations, the parties seemed to have extensive knowledge and were prepared. But there was certainly a certain amount of luck involved in the outcome. Next time, folks might not be so lucky,” said Carr, who also serves as the head of Teton County Search and Rescue.
According to his friends at the scene, Pirc wasn’t buried beneath the snow, which likely saved his life. Though he was badly injured, he still radioed his friends to let them know he was alive. When the search and rescue chopper landed, Pirc was able to gingerly snowboard down to meet them.
Just a few days prior, the entire friend group attended an avalanche rescue course, which helped save Charlie Pirc. With the training they received, the friends successfully made it down to Pirc, assisting him to the helicopter.
Though the entire group remains shaken by the event, they’re grateful to be alive and in one piece. “It’s been a lot easier knowing that we’re all OK,” Hodges told Jackson Hole News. “I’ve been able to cling to that.”