Snowboarding death reveals dangers of deep snow - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Snowboarding death reveals dangers of deep snow

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STOWE, Vt. -

A day after a UVM student died in the woods at the Stowe Mountain Resort, ski patrollers are saying he didn't do anything wrong. Brett Cohen, 22, died from injuries he sustained, after spending eight hours trapped in deep snow.

Many in Stowe, remain shocked.

"Everybody's already heard about this poor kid, so it's a little nerve-wracking," said Ava Nardullo of Stowe.

What adds to the tragedy, ski patrollers say, is that the UVM student was doing everything right. He was snowboarding with a buddy who was looking out for him and he was staying on inbound areas.

"With snow this depth, those hazards can be all over the place in the woods-- you can't see them is the point, you just need to know-- stay together and know where you’re going," said Karen Wagner, a member of the Stowe Ski Patrol.

The area where Brett Cohen was snowboarding off the Cliff Trail-- unlike its name-- does not involve any cliffs or any other major hazards, for that matter. Patrollers say it's well-traveled. All you have to do is get off the gondola and head south.

Cohen went missing around 3:30 p.m., close to the end of the day, after a friend reported him missing. Dozens of ski patrollers and other rescuers spent the next eight hours looking for him, a painstaking grid search in cold weather in the dark. He was found off the trail but not out of bounds in a stream drainage dip head down, almost completely buried in snow.

Reporter Alexei Rubenstein: And the first person who came across him, they could have possibly missed him.

Karen Wagner: They could have. Thankfully, they were able to see his snowboard.

Officials say he was unconscious and later died at the hospital. There's nothing official yet from the medical examiner, but first responders say without any signs of a head injury or physical trauma, it appears to be a case of what many call "snow immersion," literally being buried in the snow without being able to free yourself. He could have suffered hypothermia or was being suffocated.

"Anybody can be at risk from snow immersion, being trapped. However, snowboarders seem to be at higher risk because it's more difficult to get out of the bindings," Wagner said. "This probably happens more often than we know."

Snowboarders enjoying the fresh powder Wednesday said they understand the risks.

Ava Nardullo: It's tough because you've got to be tightly strapped in or else you’re not going to be able to snowboard properly. If I'm loose, then I'm going to fall out and I'm going to bust my ankle.

Alexei Rubenstein: Have you ever had an experience where you got stuck in your bindings?

Ava Nardullo: Yeah. Earlier today, we were in the woods and got stuck into a little bit of a snow drift.

Patrollers say snow immersion is actually one of the leading causes of death when it comes to snowboarders-- this is largely out west, with deeper snow and steeper terrain. Both patrollers and state search and rescue officials told WCAX News they can't recall in recent memory having a similar incident to the one this week.

Related Story:

Snowboarder who went off trail at Stowe dies

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