An Edmonton woman is questioning the safety of skiers on river valley trails after breaking her leg in a fall earlier this month.
Gloria Starko was skiing in a remote part of Gold Bar Park around nightfall in early January when she fell, snapping her femur and tearing up her knee.
She heard a crack, felt the pain and ended up lying in the snow screaming, unable to move.
"My first thought was how are they going to get me out of here?"
Starko's daughter, Ashley McClelland, called 911.
"There was a little lack of understanding," she said. "I tried to emphasize we're on a ski trail — if you guys have snowmobiles — so we were already expressing concern."
An ambulance came but got stuck on a service road. Paramedics fought the steep hill on foot and even with the help of Starko's companions, took an hour to ferry Starko up the trail on a wheeled gurney.
"It reminded me of pushing a full cart of groceries in packed snow," said McClelland. "The wheels aren't even rolling, just making ruts."
A second amubulance finally got Starko — suffering from mild hypothermia and needing surgery for her leg — to the Royal Alexandra Hospital two hours after the 911 call.
The head of Edmonton's emergency services says they did their best with the information they had.
"I think they did a good job," said Dale Weiss. "I think the patient was cared for very well in a complex situation. And I'm proud of the crew and what they did."
Sometimes emergency services will bring in other services with specialized training and equipment for assistance, but it was thought Starko was closer to a road, he said.
While Starko and her family praised the efforts of the paramedics, they wonder if there is a better way to make similar rescues.
"They needed a tobaggan, they needed Skidoos, they needed ski stuff, maybe even a skier," she said.
"How could it be that the only thing that we had to work with was a stretcher, pushing with seven people for an hour to get her out?"