Water Immersion Little Headwall

A group of three was descending the streambed between the bowl and the Little Headwall. One snowboarder was unable to avoid an open hole in the snowpack. He fell into the water with his snowboard still attached to his feet. His friends were able to quickly extend a ski pole to him. Despite being pulled by the force of rushing icy water, he was able to hold his position for several minutes. Eventually, he was unable to either be pulled up or hold on, and he was dragged underneath a snow bridge. Meanwhile, other bystanders had come along. One had entered the water on the downhill side and worked at freeing the snowboarder from that end. After a couple minutes, the snowboarder was pulled free from under the snow bridge.

He was hypothermic when extricated, with a diminished level of consciousness. His friends and bystanders worked to remove him from his soaked clothes and begin the rewarming process. AMC employees arrived on scene after he had been pulled from the water. By the time Snow Rangers arrived, his level of consciousness had improved and he was able to stand up under his own power. The snowboarder was able to walk himself down to the parking lot (with borrowed dry clothes.)

Each season, we try our best to inform skiers and snowboarders of the hazards related to riding the streambed. In this case, we had stopped recommending this as a descent route three days prior. The victim and his group stated that they were aware of the hazard presented by undermined snow. In this case, the group was very unlucky in that one fell into the water, but they were also very lucky that he came out of the situation alive. Many others had skied or ridden the slope in the days before this incident, long after the conditions had deteriorated beyond a safe level. Most of these people are unaware of how close they might have been to a similar incident, so in that respect, we see a big difference between this group and all the groups that do the same thing without consequence – at least this group now fully understands the risk involved.