Snowmobiler Buried By Avalanche for 8 Hours Survives

A man buried by an avalanche for almost eight hours emerged with little more than scratches after a relative found him using a probe.

Ryan Roberts, 34, said Friday he was astonished he survived the avalanche, which occurred about 4 p.m. Thursday while snowmobiling with an uncle and friend in Flathead National Forest's Jewel Basin near Kalispell. He was found shortly before midnight. Neither of his companions was caught in the avalanche.

"I guess I was just allowed to live another day," Roberts said in a telephone interview after his release from Kalispell Regional Medical Center.

Roberts said he tried to outrun the avalanche by driving his snowmobile at about 80 mph, but leaped off the machine as it sped toward trees.

He said he tumbled downhill and was buried face-up by about 4 feet of snow. After it became apparent that he could not move, Roberts said, he tried to remain calm and accept what he thought was his fate.

He said he remembered thinking, "Well, I'm going to die."

Roberts believes he passed out about five minutes later.

His companions began searching for Roberts immediately, and called for help after two hours. About 18 family members and friends, and a Flathead County Sheriff's Department team searched for Roberts for hours, to no avail.

Dan Root, a distant cousin, said he reached the scene shortly before midnight and didn't expect to find Roberts alive.

"I parked my sled, got my probe out and walked up the hill about 5 or 6 feet and hit" Roberts with the probe, Root said. "I probed him the first time."

After he was dug out, Roberts was taken by snowmobile to the hospital 20 miles away. His wife, Billie, said his temperature at the hospital Friday morning was 90 degrees.