Published January 17, 2013
A Utah woman who was buried by a 700-foot wide avalanche on a Utah mountain miraculously survived thanks to her boyfriend, who found her with a rescue beacon and shoveled her out of the snow.
Elisabeth Malloy, 43, and her boyfriend Adam Morrey, 30, were backcountry skiing in the mountains east of Salt Lake City on Saturday when they triggered and were engulfed by a 700-foot wide avalanche.
Malloy, who suffered frost bite in her toes and fingers, told reporters she felt a "strange serenity" while trapped under the snow before she went unconscious.
"I was sliding face-first on my stomach downhill. It was violent, I didn't hit anything, it was just kind of a ride, no stopping," Malloy said according to Fox13Now. "I had a small pocket of air I created with my arms and I decided the best situation was to meditate and breathe closely. I said to myself, 'It's not time for me, this isn't it and Adam will find me.' I had this feeling I was going to be fine."
Morrey was able to locate Malloy with an avalanche rescue beacon.
"I immediately called for Elisabeth and there was no response from her and I flailed and panicked to get myself free from the snow and get out of my skis," Morrey said according to Fox13Now.
"The moment I was free, I began my search. I descended straight down to where I last remembered Elisabeth and where we were standing when we triggered the slide."
Morrey, who had skied downhill about 10-15 feet downhill before being bowled over the slide, emerged with his head and chest out of the snow. After Malloy failed to answer his calls, he frantically shimmied out of the snow and began searching for her. After several long minutes, Morrey found Malloy using avalanche rescue beacons they were both wearing.
Using an avalanche shovel, Morrey hit her foot and then found the rest of her body. She was breathing but unconscious for a bit before she stopped breathing. Morrey performed CPR on her. She didn't have her ski boots and had lost her gloves. Morrey grabbed extra clothes she had in her backpack and put them on her to keep warm.
Another skier came by and helped the two make their way down the mountain -- Morrey and the other man on skis and Malloy on a plastic bag with one ski boot. After calling to initiate a rescue, the man helped them slide their way down until a rescue helicopter spotted them about 2 1/2 hours later.
They were taken to University Hospital in Salt Lake City. Malloy has been there since receiving treatment for her frostbite in the burn unit.
Morrey said they both have years of experienced backcountry skiing, and that they knew about the considerable avalanche danger that day.
"Our judgment was overwhelmed by the pursuit of having more fun and skiing the steeper slopes and the great Utah powder," Morrey said.
Malloy said she's glad she was buried and not Morrey because she's not sure she would have been able to be calm enough to pull off the rescue. Both thanked university officials for treating them and to avalanche rescue teams for bringing them to safety.
Malloy is leaving University Hospital Wednesday. Even though she's at risk for future frost bite, she vowed to return to the snowy mountains.
"It's who I am," she said. "It's not about the powder turns, it's about the mountains. It's about the hiking, it's about the experience for me. I enjoy being in the mountains, I love snow. I've always considered myself a mountain goat."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.