Chris discovers how powerful the snowy mountains can be.

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“Look out!” I shouted. “An avalanche!”

Dad turned as the huge wall of snow roared down the mountainside—straight at him. “Run!” he screamed."Run!" Dad screamed.

My little brother, Kevin, and his friend Alan skied safely out of the path of the avalanche on their cross-country skis. But Dad and I were wearing snowshoes. We couldn’t move as quickly.

When the snow started sliding, I turned awkwardly and tried to run in my clumsy snowshoes. The next thing I knew, I felt as if I’d slammed into a brick wall. Snow covered me, filling my mouth and eyes. Gasping and coughing, I “swam” with the slide, keeping both arms in front of me, trying desperately to stay on top of the billowing mass of snow.

As suddenly as it began, the avalanche was over. I was trapped up to my neck in cold, hard snow. I couldn’t move.

Kevin and Alan hurried to me. “Dad’s gone,” Kevin sobbed. I saw him get buried.”

“He’s not gone. Dig me out and we’ll find him.” I hoped I sounded calmer than I felt.

Kevin and Alan unhooked the small shovels we carried for emergencies like this. Avalanches are common in the rugged, high mountains of Colorado. Whenever we hike or ski into the mountains in the winter, we always come prepared.

“Hurry!” I urged. “There’s not much time!”

They worked hard, and soon I was free. My snowshoes were still on my feet. The back country was still beautiful. The snow sparkled in the sun—but now Dad was buried beneath it.

I was afraid there might be another avalanche, so I told Kevin and Alan to wait while I staggered up the mound of fallen snow.

I got out my avalanche beacon. That’s a special safety device carried by back-country skiers and snowshoers. Dad was wearing one, too. The beacon is like a little radio, with its own transmitter and receiver. The beacon transmits a steady beep, beep signal. The louder the beeps are, the closer the rescuer is to the person buried under the snow.

I turned on my receiver and scanned the surface quickly but carefully. Every second was important. Without air, Dad would suffocate. When I heard a faint beep, I moved toward the signal. My receiver showed I was getting closer.

“Here!” I shouted, dropping down and digging frantically with my hands. Kevin and Alan joined in with their shovels. Under more than a foot of snow, we uncovered the top of Dad’s head.

Dad had been buried at least fifteen minutes.

“Quick—uncover his face!” I cried. We clawed at the snow.

Dad’s eyes were closed. His gloved hand was cupped in front of his mouth and nose. That created an air pocket. But was it enough air?

“Dad!” I slapped his cheeks gently. “Wake up! Please!”

Dad’s eyelids fluttered. He was alive!

“Chris,” he murmured. “You’re safe. Where are the others?”

“Here, Dad,” Kevin said. “We’re going to get you out.”

And we did. Dad didn’t seem hurt, but he was very cold and weak. His snowshoes were gone, so he couldn’t walk in the deep snow. I used my snowshoes to make a trail. Kevin, Alan, and Dad followed. We struggled to the shelter of some pine trees.

Kevin and I made a smoky fire with pieces of damp wood. Dad needed the fire to warm up. His teeth were chattering, and he was shivering. We also hoped someone would see the smoke and rescue us. But after a few minutes, I knew we couldn’t afford to wait to be rescued.

“Kevin, Alan, huddle close to Dad so he stays warm, OK?” I said. “And keep the fire burning. I’m going for help.”

“Y-y-you c-c-can’t go alone,” Dad protested.

“I have to,” I replied. “You have hypothermia.” That’s when the body temperature drops dangerously low. It’s very serious. People can die from it. “I’ll follow the trail we made coming in. I’ll be all right.” I had to be.

I’d trudged through the snow for almost a mile when I heard the drone of snowmobiles. “Here! Over here!” I yelled. “Help!”

Three snowmobiles came into view.

“My dad was caught in an avalanche. We dug him out, but he’s cold and too tired to walk,” I reported breathlessly.

“Hop on,” one driver said. We sped to our campsite.

The snowmobilers turned out to be members of a search-and-rescue squad. They’re trained to help people who are stranded, injured, or lost in the mountains.

“How did you know we needed you?” I asked as they bundled Dad into blankets.

"You were buried?" Dad asked.“Two people were skiing the ridge above you,” a squad member explained. “Their weight probably triggered the avalanche. They saw your dad get swept away, and they went for help.”

“Did they see Chris get buried, too?” Kevin asked.

“You were buried?” Dad asked quietly.

“Up to my neck,” I said.

“We rescued Chris,” Kevin explained.

“Yeah,” Alan echoed. “And then Chris found you.”

A squad member patted my back. “Nice work.”

“Thank you,” Dad whispered, nodding at me.

As the snowmobiles headed down the mountain, I glanced back at the gigantic snowslide. I knew that from now on, I’d look at the snowy mountains with a lot more respect. I’d be extra careful, but I’d also be more confident—thanks to our lesson on the mountain.