Injured ski patrol veteran speaks after getting caught in avalanche

Posted at 9:36 PM, Dec 25, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-25 23:57:25-05

OGDEN, Utah -- Despite taking all the necessary precautions, and wearing all the suggested safety devices, 16-year ski patrol veteran Michael Erickson is laid up at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, recovering from an avalanche that collapsed his lung, broke his rib, and lacerated his spleen and kidney.

 "The thought that was going through my head, was that I had maybe twenty to thirty minutes before I was going to die," Erickson said.

The ski patrol veteran was working to clear the slopes of Snowbasin of avalanche dangers, throwing charges to clear the way.  He said his colleagues and he were skiing through a low-angled clearing when it happened.

"There was a loud cracking noise," Erickson said from his hospital bed.  "After the first few seconds, it turns into something violent."

Erickson was swept off his feet by an avalanche he estimates was moving at about 45 miles per hour.

"It doesn't look scary," Erickson said. "It doesn't look like this monster that will kill you because you can't see it.  But when you're there and you see it, you see it."

Erickson said he was swept off his feet and slammed against a tree, resulting in some life-threatening injuries.  Fortunately, his crew was close by to dig him out and get him to an ambulance.

“The power of the weight of that snow is awe inspiring.”

Erickson spent his Christmas night laid up in a hospital bed, his family by his bedside.  It's a tough way to spend a Christmas but he's happy to be alive.  He offers this warning to backcountry-goers, and hopes they'll listen.

"Most people when they read the avalanche report and there's a considerable chance of avalanches in the backcountry, don’t think twice about it, but if there was a considerable chance of getting beat up in a back alley, would you go there?”