Colorado avalanche survivor thought he had escaped danger |

Colorado avalanche survivor thought he had escaped danger

TELLURIDE, Colorado ” A back-county skier who survived a Colorado avalanche says he thought he had skied out of danger when he looked back and was hit by a wall of snow.

Eric Zuaro, 28, suffered broken bones and a punctured lung when he was buried in the avalanche near Telluride on Thursday. Another skier dug him out.

Zuaro told the Telluride Daily Planet he tested the slope before skiing on it, and it seemed safe, but the snow began to slide when he made his second turn.

He stayed on his feet and skied over to some rocks.

“I thought I was out of it,” he said. Then he turned to look at the avalanche and was hit.

He kicked off his skis and began a swimming motion to try to stay atop the snow. He was smashed into rocks, just “swimming and swimming and swimming,” and then blacked out.

The next thing he remembers, another skier, Rob Liberman, was holding his head in his hands and saying things like “Thank God. We have you. Calm down. Breathe.”

Zuaro said his injuries would have been worse had he not been wearing padding to protect his legs, torso and shoulders, and a full-face helmet.

“You can imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t had all that stuff, considering that I still broke ribs,” Zuaro said. “If I hadn’t had that stuff I would’ve been mangled.”

He said the full-face helmet “probably saved my life.”

Ann Mellick of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, who surveyed the slide, said Zuaro was lucky to have been buried only a few feet deep. Part of the slide was up to 30 feet deep, she said.

“The fact that he survived it was quite lucky given the circumstances,” she said. “I’m really glad he survived, and I hope this helps people to become a little more conservative in their decision-making.”

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