“First time I pulled my airbag. I want to share this line with u, first of all to show some of the powers we’re dealing with in the mountains, and to empower you to know your equipment and the terrain you are skiing.” –Hedvig Wessel
Norwegian Olympic skier and three-time Freeride World Champion Hedvig Wessel has spent plenty of time in avalanche terrain but thankfully has never had to deploy her airbag backpack until recently.
Hedvig was skiing a line in Alaska when her sluff caught up to her and she momentarily lost sight of the sky. Her survival instincts kicked in and she immediately pulled the ripcord on her avalanche backpack with inflated successfully.
It was a split second decision that she doesn’t regret despite not having triggered a full scale avalanche and she wanted to share her story for others to learn from (READ FULL BREAKDOWN BELOW)
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First time I pulled my airbag. I want to share this line with u, first of all to show some of the powers we’re dealing with in the mountains, and to empower you to know your equipment and the terrain you are skiing.
This line was our second line of the day, and the snow we skied on the same face was really good and stable. In Alaska, sluff is a huge risk factor, and it’s part of how we plan and strategise to ski lines like we would in our dreams and not to get caught in it. It’s basically a small avalanche. On this run, I knew I had to ski fast, to ski in front of my sluff. I also had to work from left to right, to minimise the chances of the sluff reaching me. At the end of the line it got narrower, meaning not a lot of space to let the sluff go on my side. And that was where the sluff got me. After a few seconds tumbling down, and when I didn’t see any blue sky – I pulled my airbag. For me it came as an instinct, and it felt natural and easy. I was trying to swim upward to get air, and luckily the sluff didn’t cover me.
Looking back, I am grateful for this experience, and everything I learnt from it. I am grateful to come out of this with no injuries. I am grateful to have equipment I trust and know how to use. I am grateful for my team who makes me feel safe and supported. I am grateful to continue play in the mountain and doing what I love the most. I know we are taking a lot of risk up here, but I also know that we have trained our whole life to be able to ski these mountains, where we need to trust our skills and gut. I could never have been doing this without my team, and together we have the experience and knowledge to make good decisions. Thanks for taking the time to watch my run and read this be safe out there and make good decisions…