Friend Convinced to Take inReach on Day of Avalanche Disaster

Before his friend headed out on a backcountry ski tour one day, James Birch gave him his inReach® device1 just in case. That day, three separate avalanches occurred in and around the slopes they were skiing. Birch’s friend and his party members were caught in a slide approximately 600–800 meters wide and running 200–300 meters long. Birch got the call that an SOS had been triggered on his device. He shared with Garmin what happened that day.

I first purchased my GPSMAP® 66i and subscribed to the inReach service years ago because I dirt bike in the summer and backcountry snow bike in the winter. I take my device with me every time I go out, and I have said that if I ever had to use it one time, it was worth every penny.

One day, I was having breakfast with my housemate and great friend, and he told me he was going out backcountry ski touring with friends that day. I was going to work, so I suggested he take my inReach device with him. He initially declined because his friend would have an inReach Mini with him, but I eventually convinced him, and we parted ways. I expected to see him again that night and listen to stories about what a great time he had.

But soon after midday, I received a phone call from Texas, U.S. Initially I was going to decline it, but I decided to answer. It was the Garmin Response℠ team informing me that the SOS button on my device had been activated. Obviously, it was not me but my friend — who, as it turns out, had been involved in an enormous avalanche.

After giving as much detail as I could regarding my friend’s plans for that day, I logged in to my Garmin Explore™ account on my work computer. I could see the messages between my seriously injured friend, the Garmin Response staff and the responding search and rescue teams. I’m still in absolute awe of the scale of operation behind the scenes. Helicopters, avalanche dogs and a long-line rescue team were deployed to the scene, and my friend was ultimately transported to a hospital.

In the following days and after a lot of coordination between all of the teams involved, I finally got to see my friend again. He spent several weeks in the hospital with severe damage to both legs. Months down the line, after physical rehabilitation every single day, he began walking again. Six months later, he was on a mountain bike, and almost a year later, we both went for his first snowmobile ride since the accident.

I cannot say thanks enough to every single person involved in this entire process. Without the enormous efforts put in by absolutely everyone, I would not be having breakfast again with my friend tomorrow morning. For this, I sincerely thank you.

1Active satellite subscription required. Some jurisdictions regulate or prohibit the use of satellite communication devices. It is the responsibility of the user to know and follow all applicable laws in the jurisdictions where the device is intended to be used.