Being in the right place at the right time can be priceless. In fact, it can completely change a person's life path. This has only recently become clear to two enthusiastic winter sports enthusiasts. Photographer Francis Zuber was walking up Mount Baker in Washington with his camera on when he noticed something strange.
After looking twice, he stopped and saw a snowboard rolling through the snow. It was still attached to the man stuck upside down in the snow. Knowing he had to act quickly to save the snowboarder's life, Zuber began digging up the man with his hands.
The video, which has gone viral, shows the dramatic rescue from Zuber's point of view. "I saw that little flash of red out of the corner of my eye and realised it was weird because we weren't on the field. The ski patrol would not mark the area there," Zuber recalled in an interview with KUOW. "It made me stop and look back. And there I saw a salmon coloured snowboard with bright red graphics bobbing back and forth across the snow. And I knew that someone was stuck in a tree well, that they were definitely alive and that I had to get to them as soon as possible.
Recently fallen light loose snow made it even more difficult to scale the mountain and approach the snowboarder. "Most of the time I had to push myself through the snow," says Zuber. The skier was then able to free himself by grabbing the trapped man's snowboard. "He's almost six feet tall, so I had to dig about six feet to get to him."
While in the video you can initially hear Zuber asking the guy if he's okay and letting him know he's working on his release, snowboarder Jan Steger later says he didn't hear anything but his own breathing. “He let me know that he would come to me. I haven't heard anything about it. It was complete darkness. I could only hear my own breathing," Steger told ABC7.
First, Zuber freed the man's hands, and Zuber reached his face, asked Steger if he could breathe, to which Steger affirmed, thanking Zuber from the moment he was able to speak again. After calming down for a second, the skier reached into the backpack for a shovel, which made clearing the snow a lot easier. While the video breaks off before Steger is completely pulled off, the snowboarder later shared a photo with Zuber on the mountain a few days after the incident. In the caption, he calls him "my new brother" and thanks him for saving his life.
Zuber shared the video on Instagram as a cautionary tale showing how even the most experienced snowboarders and skiers can face similar situations with the right gear. “All I can say now is that the mountains don't care how much skill or experience you have. They don't even care if you and your ski partners do everything right," wrote the skier, recommending those involved in these sports to practice what to do in such situations. "I am grateful that I knew enough to survive and conduct a successful rescue. And always look after each other there."