Avalanche Survivor Shares Story

Avalanche Survivor Shares Story

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News Specialist Samantha Hayes reporting Just a few hours ago, a wall of snow sent Paul Hansen tumbling nearly 1,000 vertical feet.

Tonight, he's alive to tell about it, thanks to the help of strangers.

Paul Hansen, from Saratoga Springs, New York, was back-country skiing alone when an avalanche buried him under several feet of snow.

It happened this afternoon at Cardiac Ridge between Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons.

"I was prepared to die in that avalanche, literally," Hansen says.

Hansen is not inexperienced. He's been skiing in the backwoods for 30 years. So he says he knows now this can happen to anybody, and is thankful tonight that he was prepared -- and more importantly, so were others.

"I wasn't expecting to be rescued, I must say. I knew there were people around me, but when you are in an avalanche you are lucky to get out of it," he says.

Hansen certainly didn't expect his day to end with a television interview. It started like any other day on the slopes.

"I'd started skiing down, made several turns, it felt weird, surreal, instability on the hill and I could start to feel it go," he says.

And at that point, up in the backcountry of Cardiff Fork, there wasn't much he could do.

"Everything started to set up and when you are in an avalanche like that, it's like concrete," he says.

Hansen was out by himself, but other skiers he met earlier in the day were nearby and saw what happened.

"We just looked over and saw the avalanche rip out and it was huge," says Marla Bailey.

"He was probably under 10 minutes, really surprised me, not expecting him to be alive because it just seemed like it took forever, probably not that long, but you are so freaked out because this is for real, not practice anymore," says skier Erin Hughes.

But the practice and the preparation paid off. A small detection beacon and shovels saved Hansen's life.

"I just really want to thank those people who rescued me. (They did a) very good job, very careful, excellent, certainly an easy way out of the Cardiac Ridge area, but not one I want to repeat again," he says.

Hansen says he will go skiing again, he'll just be more careful.

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