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Islander Rescues Teen From Avalanche at Crystal Mountain

Mercer Island native Chad Robbs located a young woman buried under a couple of feet of snow on Tuesday, Dec. 18, following an avalanche at Crystal Mountain Ski resort.

A Mercer Island native is being credited as one of a group of rescuers who found a young woman unharmed after being buried by an avalanche on Tuesday, Dec. 18, at Crystal Mountain ski resort near Enumclaw.

MIHS graduate Chad Robbs, 36, was reportedly skiing in the Northway portion of the ski area when he and a group of skiers were making their last run down the mountain at around 2 p.m. when they happened upon the avalanche debris field.

Three skiers were buried by the snow, said Robbs, along a ski run known as "I-5" — near the lower portion of the mountain — and considered "expert" terrain. Two men managed to dig themselves out, but a 19-year-old woman remained buried.

Robbs, a professional photographer in Salt Lake City, UT, and experienced backcountry skier, said he volunteered to help the Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol because he carried an avalanche probe, a shovel and an emergency beacon.

According to the Associated Press, the 19-year-old didn't have an emergency beacon that the ski patrol could use to locate her, so rescuers fanned out in a line with probes, jamming them into the snow.

"The snow was so deep, it was difficult to move around (in)," he said. "She was yelling, (but) we could not hear anything — she was 2-3 feet under. Couldn't hear us, either."

After several minutes of checking and probing a number of tree wells, Robbs said he "finally had a lucky strike," and found her, breathing and conscious.

"All skiers need to be wearing a beacon at the least, so we can find them," Robbs said.

Ski patrol Director Paul Baugher said high winds and over 40 inches of snow since Monday was causing the dangerous conditions, according to KING 5 News. The woman was later checked by a doctor and found to be in good health.

Robbs said he's thankful she's alive. "She had no idea we were looking for her," he said.

The rescue reminded him of childhood friend David Pettigrew, a Mercer Island resident and classmate who was killed in a snowboarding accident in 2005 at Alpental. A foundation named in his honor recently completed construction of The David Pettigrew Mountain Safety and Education Center at Alpental, which holds free workshops concerning Mountain Safety, Avalanche Awareness, Companion Rescue, and Avalanche & Terrain Obervation Skills.

Robbs is the son of local Ewing & Clark real estate broker/principal Kris Robbs.

Ken Urman, Real Estate Broker December 19, 2012 at 04:49 PM
My hats off to Chad! Not only for helping to save the girl, but also for having all the right gear. If you're going to ski the back country during this time of year it's essential to be equipped. Nice job Chad!
sibella giorello December 19, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Way to go, Chad Robbs. A good samaritan on skis. :-)
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA December 19, 2012 at 10:50 PM
This is the kind of picture & story I like to see on Patch! J-
Kris Robbs December 20, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Unfortunately in the Media it seems as if the Ski Patrol and their dog found Emily. No so. This would be a perfect time for the Ski Patrol to mention the value of skiers who are equipped to assist them since they cannot be everywhere there is a problem. I recognize the valuable work the Ski Patrol does but they should recognize the value in having skiers who are trained in Avalanche rescue and carrying probes, shovels and beacons.Also it is important to point out that finding her would have been easier had she had a beacon. Ken is right on.
Kris Robbs December 20, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Right on Ken!

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