Local woman swept up in avalanche 

Other skiers in group unharmed

As Blackcomb Mountain celebrated Avalanche Awareness Days last weekend a local woman was swept away by a slide on an in-bound Whistler run.

Luckily Sandy Knapton survived the Class 1 avalanche, but the force of the slide cracked her femur as it carried her over 300 metres down Cockalorum.

Knapton was skiing with several of her closest friends when the avalanche happened around 11 a.m. Saturday. They had already had a fantastic run off the T-bar lift and were waiting with anticipation for the Peak Chair to open.

Once they got the green light for the area, following avalanche control, they headed up and then over toward West Bowl.

"We went in single file and two of my good friends proceeded to ski down,"said Knapton from Vancouver General Hospital where she is recovering.

"Then I saw (one of my friends) crashing down and I looked over and I saw another friend that was down and I began wondering why are they down? They are great skiers and that made me a little nervous standing there."

Despite the attack of nerves Knapton decided to set off after her friends. But she didn’t even have time to make that first turn before the ridge of snow she was standing on gave way underneath her.

"I felt the snow fall right out from underneath me and I did a few somersaults and I just remember – in great detail – that my right ski released right away and my left ski wasn’t releasing and I kept thinking I’ve got to get it off, I’ve got to get it off," said the long-time Whistler resident and mother of two.

Her left ski finally released but not before she heard the crack of her femur braking.

"And all the way down I was screaming as loud as I could and making everyone aware that there was an avalanche and to ‘help me’, screaming and swimming and then I came to a stop," she said.

Good friend Lorraine Vollmer rushed to Knapton’s aid, immediately calling patrollers on her cell phone. Within minutes help was there.

But all Knapton could think of at that moment was the fear that another slide was going to come down and carry off her closest friends and everyone trying to help.

"I was so scared of it coming down," she said. "It could take us all out, and so many of my good friends were with me.

"It was scary. It was very scary."

Meanwhile Knapton’s husband Dan, who works on Whistler Mountain, was listening on his radio to what was happening.


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