Alaska snowmachiners survive avalanche they triggered

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska man said he and his friends are lucky to be alive after triggering an avalanche while riding their snowmachines in the eastern Alaska Range.

Dustin Scalisi was riding with three brothers along the College Glacier north of the tiny community of Paxson on Saturday when the avalanche caught three of them, partially burying two, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported .

The group was aware there was a risk of slides, but they didn’t think too much of it, Scalisi said.

“The truth of it is we had ridden in areas like this time after time, the same conditions, and it had never happened,” Scalisi said. “We had gotten apathetic to avalanches.”

Later that afternoon, Joshua Hale set off an avalanche on the Pegmatitie Glacier, Scalisi said. Hale pulled on the throttle to escape, but he went over a drop-off and fell from the snowmachine. He was swept up in the snow but managed to pull himself out.

Scalisi, Joseph Hale and Israel Hale saw the avalanche approaching above them. Scalisi said he outran it, but it caught the other two men. The snow hit Israel Hale, but he was able to keep a hand above the surface.

The group made it out unharmed. The avalanche created a debris pile about 300 yards (274 meters) across and 500 yards (457 meters) long, Scalisi said.

“Had I not turned around and seen that avalanche behind me, I would have gotten hit full speed not knowing what hit me and I would probably not be here,” Scalisi said.

Scalisi was not prepared for the emergency, so he plans to train for avalanches and buy safety devices before the next snowmobiling season, he said.

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com