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Being in the right place at the right time can be invaluable. In fact, it can completely change a person's life trajectory. This was recently made abundantly clear for two winter sports enthusiasts. Photographer Francis Zuber was skiing at Mount Baker in Washington with a headcam on when he noticed something odd. After doing a double take, he stopped and saw a snowboard moving in the snow. It was still attached to a man stuck upside down in the snow. Knowing he had to act quickly to save the snowboarder's life, Zuber began digging the man out with his hands. A now-viral video shows the dramatic rescue from Zuber's point of view.
“I caught this little flash of red out of the corner of my eye and I knew it was weird because we were out of bounds. Ski patrol wouldn't mark any terrain there,” Zuber recalled in an interview with KUOW. “So, it made me stop and take a second look back. And that's where I saw the salmon snowboard there, with the bright red graphic, going back and forth in the snow. And I knew that there was somebody trapped in the tree well, that they were still alive clearly, and that I needed to get to them as quickly as possible.”
The light, powdery snow that had recently fallen made it even more difficult moving uphill and getting closer to the snowboarder. “I basically had to claw my way through the snow,” Zuber says. The skier was then able to leverage himself up by grabbing the trapped man's snowboard. “He's nearly six feet tall, so I had to dig down about six feet to get to him.”
While in the video you can first hear Zuber asking the guy if he's ok and letting him know he was working on freeing him, the snowboarder, Ian Steger, later said he couldn't hear anything other than his own breathing. “He was letting me know he was coming up to me. I didn't hear any of that. It was complete darkness. I could only hear, you know, the sound of my own breathing,” Steger told ABC7.
First, Zuber freed the man's hands and after reaching his face, Zuber asked Steger if he could breathe, to which he replied affirmatively, and thanked Zuber from the moment he could speak again. At peace for a second, the skier reached out for his backpack to get a shovel, which made the removal of snow much easier. While the video cuts before Steger is completely unstuck, the snowboarder later shared a picture alongside Zuber on the mountain, days after the incident. In the caption, he calls him “my new brother” and thanks him for saving his life.
As for Zuber, he shared the video on Instagram as a cautionary tale, showing how even the most experienced snowboarders and skiers with the appropriate gear can face situations like this. “All I'll say for now is the mountains don't care how much skill or experience you have. They don't even care if you and your ski partners are doing everything right,” the skier wrote, recommending those who practice these sports to get training on what to do in situations like this. “I'm thankful I knew just enough to scrape by and perform a successful rescue. And always look out for each other out there.”
Francis Zuber was skiing when he noticed a stuck upside down in the snow. Knowing he had to act quickly to save the snowboarder's life, he quickly began digging the man out with his hands.
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The snowboarder later shared a picture with Zuber on the mountain, days after the incident. In the caption, he calls him “my new brother” and thanks him for saving his life.
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