Snowmobiler recovering after avalanche |

Snowmobiler recovering after avalanche

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

KASSON, Minn. ” A Minnesota man was recovering at home on Thursday after being buried under tons of snow in a snowmobiling accident in Colorado on Monday.

Shannon Christiansen, 31 of Kasson, was charging up a steep grade in the Arapaho National Forest when a slab of snow began to slide down the hill.

The slide “slammed me in the back. I was aware of it happening, unfortunately, the whole way down.

“Words can’t describe the force, slamming me into my handlebars. … My hand was still on the throttle. I remember just flooring the sled, but that was no help at all.”

He was thrown from the machine “like a rag doll,” he said, and “when I landed, then everything just kind of slowed down.”

He settled under 3 to 4 feet of snow, with his head at an angle below his feet. His helmet was packed with snow and he couldn’t move a finger. “It’s like being encased in concrete,” Christiansen said.

He said he had about a minute to think about his future before he blacked out. “‘This is it; this is where I’m going to die,'” Christiansen said, recalling his thoughts.

Christiansen, a construction worker, was riding with his girlfriend, Lori Parkinson, and another couple. They rushed to dig him out.

“It’s kind of hard to talk about,” said Parkinson. “I saw it come down. I ran over to the area and could see a little bit of his snowmobile sticking out. I was pretty panicked.”

Another party of snowmobilers nearby joined the rescue. Someone saw Christiansen’s foot through a small gap in the snow. They dug with their hands and with the shovels the other party brought. She said someone finally saw his head.

Once the snow-packed helmet was removed, Christiansen made “a gurgling sound” as he came to after a couple of minutes.

“I think my arm is broken,” were his first words, Parkinson said. Search-and-rescue personnel brought Christiansen from the mountain to a nearby clinic, where he was found to have only a dislocated shoulder and then released.

Grand County, Colo., Sheriff Rodney Johnson said Christiansen was lucky. By the time authorities hear about someone caught in an avalanche, it’s usually too late to get rescuers to the scene in time.

“Somebody has to be right there to rescue you,” Johnson said.

He said Christiansen was fortunate the rescuers had shovels and other “back-country gear” with them. Such a rescue “on a steep avalanche field is not an easy thing to do,” he said.

Christiansen said the experience would not keep off his sled, but it might keep him off the sides of mountains. “I’m a little gun-shy right now. I’ll still ride on the little hills that don’t slide,” he said.

Kasson is about 70 miles southeast of Minneapolis in southeastern Minnesota.

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