British Columbia

'There was a lot of blood. He was a very broken man': Snowboarder swept away by avalanche at B.C. ski resort

A Vernon B.C., man watched as his snowboarding partner was swept up in an avalanche on a ski run at SilverStar Mountain Resort last week.

WARNING: Story contains graphic descriptions of the snowboarder's injuries

Nathan Fisher and Tylor Williams about to head down a run at SilverStar Mountain Resort near Vernon, B.C. (Tylor Williams)

What started out as a perfect day of snowboarding for two friends quickly turned to disaster after one of them was caught in an avalanche on a remote run at SilverStar Mountain Resort near Vernon, B.C. 

Tylor Williams and Nathan Fisher had just launched into their first run of the day on a double-black-diamond-rated run named Alder Point on the ski resort's back side last Wednesday.

"Everything was so fast and so scary," said Williams, who saw snow on the slope ahead of him start to give way, sending the top layer careening downhill towards Fisher further down the run. 

Williams watched in horror as the avalanche caught up to Fisher and pushed him toward trees on the side of the run.

'Pulled him right through the tree line'

"It was a matter of seconds before I saw his board above his head and the snow just tumbling him through and taking him down," he said. "It went over another crest over to the left and it just pulled him right through the tree line."

Nathan Fisher was airlifted by helicopter to Kelowna General Hospital where he is now recovering after being swept away in an avalanche March 20, at SilverStar Mountain Resort (Tylor Williams)

Williams yelled out to Fisher as he rode down the slope towards where his friend had disappeared.

He unstrapped from his board and ran through dirt and sticks left by the avalanche to the ridge of the crest.

There, he saw his friend, partially covered in snow, lying on the slope with his feet uphill and head downhill up against a tree.

Fisher was conscious and calling out to Williams, who ran down to his side.

"I just remember him saying over and over, 'Ty, help,' but his jaw was so smashed and his throat had a hole in it that it was a garbled sound and that is what scared me," he said.

Williams tried to undo Fisher's bindings which had been ripped from the snowboard, but he stopped when he saw his friend's leg wrapped around the tree at an awkward angle.

'A very broken man'

"I got down behind him. I took my tuque off and applied pressure on his throat gash. I told him we were going to get through this."

After trying to call 911 multiple times with no luck getting a signal, Williams yelled for help as loudly as he could, over and over, until someone answered from a distance the ski patrol was on the way.

He stayed with Fisher, holding him and encouraging him to stay conscious.

"I tried to get him to focus on breathing. I told him, 'don't look at your body and don't look at the blood,'" he said.

"I honestly thought it was the last time I was holding my friend. There was a lot of blood and he was a very broken man."

Tylor Williams, pictured here with his daughter, held his tuque against Nathan Fisher's wound and held him upright as the pair waited for help on the mountainside. (Tylor Williams)

As the pair waited, two more avalanches came down the mountain near where they were positioned in the trees — one of them sliding only a metre or two to the right.

Help eventually arrived, and ski patrollers took over from Williams, applying first aid and getting him ready to be taken off the hill.

'People really, really care about him'

Fisher was eventually airlifted off the mountain by helicopter and is now recovering at Kelowna General Hospital.

He suffered several broken ribs, a broken ankle, a dislocated hip and deep lacerations to his throat, but no significant head or spinal injuries, according to Williams.

Williams has visited Fisher in hospital several times.

He's also started an online fundraising campaign to help cover Fisher's expenses during his long road to recovery.

"He's such a positive carefree guy, so seeing so many people responding and trying to support him is amazing," Williams said.

"I think he's overwhelmed by how many people really, really care for him."

In a news release a spokesperson for SilverStar Mountain Resort said the company has hired independent avalanche consultants to investigate the incident. 

The company has closed runs on the back side of the mountain and is assessing snow conditions across the resort.

About the Author

Brady Strachan

CBC Reporter

Brady Strachan is a CBC reporter based in Kelowna, B.C. Besides Kelowna, Strachan has covered stories for CBC News in Winnipeg, Brandon, Vancouver and internationally. Follow his tweets @BradyStrachan

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