Pro snowboarder saved by Float

Posted on January 29th, 2012 by | 68 Comments

Exciting news- we have another confirmed airbag save, this time coming out of our own backyard near Montezuma, Colorado.

Meesh Hytner, a pro snowboarder, was riding near the Snake River drainage on January 25th and triggered a substantial (R2D2+) avalanche that took her tumbling to the valley floor below. She was able to deploy her Float 30 avalanche airbag shortly after the crown broke, allowing her to remain on the surface of the giant slab as it broke out above her.

We had a chance to catch Meesh’s story firsthand when she dropped by the BCA booth at SIA. “I felt like I was riding a mattress down the stairs,” she said. Luckily, Meesh was able to remain upright with her back and feet downhill for the entirety of the slide:


All photos Copywrite 2012, Ben Koelker Photography

The avalanche danger for the Vail-Summit zone was considerable that day on all aspects and elevations, with human-triggered avalanches likely. Meesh and company had snowmobiled up to snowboard the northeast faces, some of which had already slid. She was very lucky to have survived unscathed. “Thank you” she told us, “this thing saved my life. It’s proof that this product works.”

Tyler Malay and the crew over at Work Horse Collective collected the following footage:

  • Emayhazing

    dude was riding that shit really bad he stopped in the most avy proned place had no style glad he made it out

    • Fap

      had no style?! Thats not really the point of the vid.

      • Yuri

        These Gaper bags are going to get a lot of people killed.   The girl and
        group deciding to have a comp in the back country are dumbazzes.  
        Pro…pro what?   competitive sports are for ego maniacs and low
        aptitude. You one lucky chica.   Now all u ppl pack up and get out.

    • LordFarqhaad

      umm…can you read?  Dude was a she.  Never-the-less, I agree.  The riding sucked, nothing special at all.  Lucky companies like BCA make these packs for stupid a$$ motherfu*&ers.  Long live the idiots!!

  • I love snow

    Heard a guy talking about this competition last Sunday at Beaver Creek. Little Alaska is no a place to be this year, always heavy wind loading. Glad to see she made it out ok.

    • Roy

      “little alaska??”   man snowboarders are dumb.

  • Glinn4

    Graet product ! Saves lives :o)
    Thanks bca!

  • Kozmo

    She had no escape plan and no awareness that there was an avalanche happening until she lost her footing.  I am glad she lived and didn’t get maimed.  The float in all likelihood saved her life, but the lack of snow and slope knowledge demonstrated in the video shows that she expected the device to think for her.  Once again, an in depth knowledge of the conditions and terrain could have prevented the avalanche entirely.  Thank God for BCA!

    • liftielove

      lack of snow?  looks like a lot of snow coming down

      • Biejai

        I think he meant the lack of snow and slope knowledge as 1. Meaning the lack of knowledge in both.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FLWVMHN72W7DQM4RXJLMPMDKZY joev

        Ignorance is bliss!

    • Foo

      I think you’re wrong to question her knowledge. The only thing demonstrated in this video is that she chose to ride a particular line on a particular day. You weren’t there.

      In all likelihood, the group decided to choose lines with fairly safe terrain features (yes, rocky at the top, but no cliffs, trees, or abrupt transitions below). Even if she hadn’t deployed the bag and had the misfortune to be buried, she would have had a large number of rescuers immediately searching for her beacon and would most likely have been dug out in minutes. Probably without too much physical trauma, either, considering the terrain features.

      Or maybe she would have died. That’s the risk she chose to take. She has probably taken similar risks riding when the avalanche danger was practically non-existent. Don’t presume to know her risk tolerance.

      • smartgal

        “Fairly safe terrain”??!?!?  Slides on adjacent chutes showed the snowpack was unstable and i would love to know if anyone running the “competition” actually dug a pit.  Ignoring red flags is a clear lack of knowledge.  Getting buried in an avalanche is something to avoid: you seem to brush off the risk in the second paragraph.  I know someone who was caught in a slide smaller than this, was buried for less than 10 minutes, and died.  The bro-brah attitude about the whole thing shown in this video kinda indicates that this group really doesn’t know what they’re doing…. I hope they learn from this experience. 

        • Switchbacksidecork

          A true pro would not of had to of dug a pit at all,  and Why do you need to even dig a pit on a day like that with the seasonal snowpack history,  Do you really think your gonna find something that you don’t know is there,  or are you digging to confirm that you already know that the pack is nothing more then a shit sandwich.  How is a pit gonna help you decide here with the variables.

          • Adam

            What?!? What on earth would give a pro some magic sense of the snowpack? That’s a ridiculously ignorant statement to make You are right about finding something you didn’t already know was there. A true backcountry “pro” would never ride that slope.

      • Switchbacksidecork

        Foo, you a foo!

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FLWVMHN72W7DQM4RXJLMPMDKZY joev

        With the amount of people there in the field that day there was not only a lack of knowledge from the girl riding, but I would say from the whole group for not being able to make good decisions. Nobody spoke up,  was it a group decision to chose this terrain?  Seems like the whole team needs to go to school!  Obviously not a professional in the group,  just a bunch of brofressionals.

      • vandeezy


        I think you’re wrong to question her knowledge. The only thing demonstrated in this video is that she chose to ride a particular line on a particular day. You weren’t there.”

        Having ridden that slope numerous times all I can say is that she rode it in the worst possible manner. Ski/board cutting through the middle gut, taking your sweet ass time in highly exposed terrain. Her “Island of Safety” already had avalanched (lookers right in the video at 13 secs) so she had no where to go but down the main avy path. It is sketchy when the snowpack is solid. 

      • Bam Bam

        question her knowledge. Everybody knows what a shitty avalanche cycle we are in that skis backcountry around here and isn”t a total rookie. That area is prone to avalanches all the time. She is a dumbass & so was everyone there that day. Rookies!!

      • Broin’ with my Bros, Bro

        Yeah bro, we shouldn’t question her knowledge, I mean she had her airbag so she was really prepared! Plus all her bros were there to high five her at the end too! I’m sure they would have been able to figure out how to turn their beacons on if they really needed to!

        But seriously, what was the thought process? “The other chute already slid so if this one was gonna slide then it would have already slid, right? I also see rocks so there’s not much snow up there, you probably won’t even get buried if it slides!”

      • Roy

        The “group” you are referring to are a bunch of morons; little kids in mini golf terrain peeing their pants.

        BCA should have nothing to do with these clowns. The air bags will sell themselves without showing morons in action.

        And given there are alot air bag products in the market and more on the way, why buy the bag the idiots use?

  • http://www.taosmesaroots.bandcamp.com/ Bella

    Ignoring all the red flags, getting into it.  Is it worth it to take risks like this?  That’s up to each individual.  Humans are potentially intelligent beings.  Seeing avalanches on similar aspects and then deciding to ride a line is a decision that takes thought, knowing how to ride that line takes experience.  Avalanches are often predictable and it’s best to expect and be prepared.  Having proper equipment is a way of preparation, I hope people see this and understand that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, this may seem to be a bad decision on the rider’s part but sometimes we have to let loose and just let it rip and hope the horse doesn’t step in a hole.  Glad You’re ok Meesh

    • goodtimes

       There’s a time when letting it rip and be free is part of it but with all the red flags that were present this day and as a group deciding that it was a good decision to have this competition there was no intelligence involved only consequences.  Next time your in this situation thing about the people that have to come in and save yuu, think about the situation your putting them and their families in.  I’m glad your friend made it out safe, but what would you be saying if it went the other way?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/FH65KPED4U3UCI3GMZCG42COFU Harry

    I’m getting one of those packs, and then I just won’t worry about avalanche conditions anymore!  Woohoo.  Just kidding.  It was cool to see that thing in action though.  Can’t wait until those packs come down in price…

  • Tony T.

    I agree with others that question this riders judgment.  Sure, the BCA saved her from potential injury, but why the hell was she riding a slope on that aspect on that day?  Everyone who has a clue about the snowpack in Colorado right now knows its simply too dangerous to ride any of the fun looking lines out there. Her reaction was pretty dumb too.  She just kind of stopped, stood there, looked around, and then continued riding.  Then, she doesn’t even try to ride to an island of safety, she just sits down!?  
    I don’t know.  I’m glad your product works, but I’m sad that it’s leading to poor snow safety choices.

  • avaloo

    Too bad there weren’t any signs of recent avalanche activity in the area to clue them in to the potential risks.  Nothing like chutes right next to that one having slid earlier that day or anything… clearly visible in the pan of the camera. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/MW2I672AROA6RO2MOZOCH2BDXM Willie Bustit

    It would appear that it doesn’t take brains or any ability to become a pro these days. Weak riding on a weak snowpack. WEAK!

  • ED

    Apparent proof of the capability of airbags but as others have noted, given the snow pack conditions (terrible) and in particular that aspect and terrain some basic knowledge would have prevented this in the first place

  • BJ

    first things first – glad you are alive sister.  This de-brief could have been much more somber.

    next up – wtf were you doing there in the first place.  the terrain, snowpack and weather triangle would scream red flag at every point.  Human factor?  My opinion, for whatever it’s worth – the pack may have actually added a “eh, fu*k it, I’ve got backup” filter to the thought process of the sponsors, team and rider out there – when a filter is exactly what needs to be removed to look objectively.  It’s not like this line was the only choice available to go from point a to point b and you *HAD* to ride it to get to the next safe point….this was a choice based on what seems to be ego on many levels. Rip a line, get your name in lights.   there’s still a disconnect here that needs to be addressed – Looks to me like the human factor overrode everything the mountain was trying to tell you.

    BCA – I see why you want to promote this event for marketing, yet you may want to also identify the five or six reasons why this ride shouldn’t have happened in the first place, or you may have to answer some poor kid’s Mom asking you why the pack didn’t save her son/daughter’s life on a similar line in similar conditions.  be careful what you promote… BCA is a top-notch element the field of avalanche safety – be sure you put your best foot forward in situations like this!

  • Gilbertsontravis

    Everyone has something negative to say.  There was no comp in Deer Creek basin this day.  It was called off due to high avy danger, and the riders that showed up decided to have a barbecue in the valley instead.  Some people decided to ride their sleds, while others decided to ride in one place or another at their own discretion.  Judging the professionalism or knowledge of a large group of backcountry riders based on the actions of one is a quick jump to an unintelligent and uninformed conclusion.  Unless you were there that day you really can’t know anything. 

  • Doodle

    Its obvious that mistakes were made and luckily it didn’t cost this young lady her life. 
    Rather than pass judgement, I would like to hear her side of the story. 

    • Anonymous

      Hey Doodle- here’s a link to an interview with Meesh: http://mtnweekly.com/a-horror-story-with-a-happy-ending-avalanche-survial-28208#.TygMwPyJuA0.twitter

      • Doodle

        “Avalanches are an occupational hazard, this was the second one I have been in and won’t be the last”. OK. I will pass judgement now. She’s a freakin idiot!

  • Bredtoshred

    Would a dude have pointed it past the toe into the pepper at the bottom, wrecked, and gotten buried?? I think so…… Instead of a competition, might be good to just have a dork-off “avalanche practice class” with more pro crash test dummies. 

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  • Mountainboy

    c’mon…obvious marketing vid…stupid and irresponsible, but obvious…

    • Anonymous

      Mountainboy- BCA would never be involved in making an advertisement with someone’s life at risk.

      • smarterthanyou

        BS.  This video contains all of the same production elements as your other airbag shoots – alpental, breckenridge.  High-speed shutter right next to vid mount, crackling radio, everything.  This absolutely was a staged event.  Don’t even try to deny it.

        • Dave

          This is simply not true- the film crew that was there for the event (Workhorse Collective/www.workhorsecollective.com) did take photos alongside the video, but we (BCA) were in no way associated with the event before they came to us with the footage and photos after it took place. If you’d like to verify this please feel free to contact Tyler Malay at Workhorse Collective by visiting their website (see above).
          Regards,
          Dave / Backcountry Access

        • Anonymous

          Meesh first came to the BCA booth at the SIA tradeshow in Denver, two days after this incident occurred. Until that point we’d never met her nor anyone associated with the filming or photography of it. They simply wanted us to know that they were happy with the product, and from there we asked if we could use the footage, and they agreed. End of story.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephen-Fortt/848200093 Stephen Fortt

    I was up next to do my line after this chick. I’m so glad she was ok. We’ll I think every big mountain rider should have a air bag equiped ready to go!!!!!

    • smartgal

      Agreed, but its too bad that you cant buy a BRAIN for the price of an airbag.  If you want to ride mountains you must respect mountains.  Your group had no appreciation for what you were getting into.  Far from a group of “big mountain” riders.

  • Anonymous

    From the thread on TGR from Meesh herself: No pits were dug, avy rose was solid orange, lots of natural avys on similar slope and aspect.  Plus the human factors of the bluebird day and pressure from others.  Meesh and everyone else at that bush-league pseudo-“competition” are complete morons that are going to get themselves killed.  The high fives at the end are sickening.

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  • http://twitter.com/poormansheli Poor Man’s Heli

    “avalanches are an occupational hazard, this was the second one I have been in and won’t be the last.”

    Wow.

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  • Guest

    she is a professional? professional what? Idiot or moron. I believe that type of “pro” needs to stay in bounds and preferably in the park with the rest of the “pros”!

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  • smellarat

    BCA should be ashamed.  This was 100% staged event.  Big slide, live human.  Nice.
    Normal people don’t say, “no, we’re good…” as their buddy slowly arrests from a massive avalanche (heard best on the CBS youtube footage).
    Need proof?  Listen to the rapid fire shutter on the BCA’s youtube channel footage of Alpental airbag test and Breckenridge.  That and every other aspect of those productions are consistent with this shoot.  (also, anyone wondering why there’s a CIA-style distorted voice on the radio in the beginning and end of this piece? me too.)

    Despicable.

    • Dave

      I can assure you this was not put on by us (BCA) and we were in no way associated with this event before they came to us with the footage. You can contact the group that was doing the filming by checking out their website at: http://www.workhorsecollective.com/

  • Jim

    I cannot believe how irresponsible BCA is being in all this.  Yeah, sure Meesh is a total idiot who did nothing right and put herself and others in serious danger. I guess I’ve grown to expect that kind of utter ignorance and irresponsibility and single-minded focus on publicity and cameras from many folks, esp. these kind of “pros.”  But honestly, the way BCA has promoted this video and stayed silent about the litany of errors by Meesh and the organizers of this “event” is just as irresponsible.  Just like Meesh, it seems BCA’s only concern is publicity and self-promotion.  I guess you two are a marketing match made in heaven (sounds like Meesh has a new sponsor).    BCA has taken a lot of time to spread this video far and wide, to show the success of the airbag, but has said little about the irresponsible and unsafe actions of Meesh and her group.  This video has received so much attention, it could have been a great learning opportunity for the folks who see it, but instead BCA has saw it only as a great MARKETING opportunity. If BCA is the responsible company many thought it was whose 1st priority was BC safety, BCA’s focus would not be exclusively on the marketing opportunity, but BCA would be talking just as much about the many safety problems with this line and “event.” The way BCA has promoted this video is just going to lead to more and more Meeshes who think they can do everything wrong, fail to obtain (or utilize) avy ed and an air bag will bail them out every time…unfortunately, many times it won’t.  I guess I foolishly expected BCA to be less concerned with publicity and more concerned with safety than these riders were.  At least Meesh was right about one thing, ““I’m getting over it, avalanches are an occupational hazard, this was the second one I have been in and won’t be the last.”  No it won’t!       

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for your comment Jim, you’ve brought up some good points. Essentially our stance from the beginning has been to neither condemn nor condone the actions of those involved with this video, but instead to simply showcase our product actually being used in the field to save a life. It’s true, as has been said many times over within these comments- those involved shouldn’t have gotten themselves into such a dangerous situation in the first place, and there were many signs pointing to the inherent dangers of doing so (prior avalanche activity, steep/exposed terrain, hard windslabs over weak layers, etc.) We certainly never meant to advocate ever getting yourself into an avalanche and have traditionally been very outright in our advocacy of avalanche awareness and safety training.
      Essentially, there will always be those out there willing to take greater risks in the backcountry than others, and so our goal has been to make products that help people mitigate these risks. We also, however, try to stress the importance of education first and foremost, and you’re right, we might not have handled that portion as well as we could have in this case. We’ll work to fix this. Thanks again for your concerns.

      – Dave

      • Anonymous

        Dave, I hear that you’re now paying for an Avy 2 course for this moron-that-shall-not-be-named?  Education can’t fix stupid of this magnitude.  Why is BCA wasting their money and all the goodwill they’ve built up amongst *real* BC riders by even giving this moron the time of day?

        • Anonymous

          I think you’re being a little harsh on Meesh- while it’s true the group as a whole made some very poor decisions that day, we’d like to see them start making smarter ones, hence we’re helping her get educated.

          • Froto

            is this person really ready for a L2 class that’s heavy on snow science when she doesn’t understand the basics of L1?  an L2 class is a waste if you don’t have a firm grasp of what’s covered in L1, and she certainly doesn’t as her actions and her quotes in her interviews show.  I’d agree BCA is alienating a lot of its loyal customers and destroying a lot of goodwill by associating itself with this person and group and sponsoring her for an L2, when their are many more deserving folks who are responsible members of the BC community who make positive contributions to the community.  It’s unbelievable BCA wants to continue to associate itself with this person and group further all in the name of $$$ and publicity.  

  • Bobbowie

     Possibly staged. Definitely bad decision making.

    Meesh Hytner is now using her 15 minutes to validate her sickening ignorance and lack of respect for the mountain.

    Regardless of whether BCA staged this event, I don’t like the manner in which they appear to be trying to exploit the situation to promote their product.

    Now that sub-$1000 airbag packs are on the market I will be purchasing one soon.  It will NOT be BCA product.

    • Anonymous

      Bobbowie, thanks for voicing your concerns. I’d like to assure you first of all that this was not staged- Meesh and the others involved came to us at our booth at SIA in Denver two days after the event occurred, up until then we’d never met them. She wanted to express her gratitude for the product that saved her life, and then introduced us to those that took the footage and photos, and we went from there.

      And while our model of airbag in particular was used in this case, the video overall works to show that any airbag can act as a life saver. We never meant to exploit, only to expose.

      Regards,
      Dave

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  • Will

    Telluride avalanche this week: “Soules was riding alone when the avalanche occurred. He was fully equipped with an avalanche beacon, an Avalung, and an ABS Air Bag System, which had been deployed, although it had been “shredded.”