March 2008 Rožle Bregar

Japan – Pow Pow Avalanche

Deep powder always attracts people from all over the world to Japan. My father Cveto Podlogar fell in love with it so much that he has lived there for more than 30 years. This year he celebrated his 50th birthday and we were joined by some relatives and friends.

In the Japanese Alps, the tree line is higher (above 2500 m) than in Europe, so avalanches are not very often. But it was different on the day of my father’s party when more than ten Japanese and Slovenian revelers had already put their skis on their shoulders and strapped on their backpacks and other equipment.

We were skiing down the steep white slope to the plateau, I noticed a group of clouds, as fantastic as I hadn’t seen in a long time. It would be a sin not to capture them as a passionate photographer. I was the only one who stopped in the middle of the slope and waited for the right moment. Waiting for the skiers, I was facing the others down in the valley in the silence of the mountains, yes, right towards them, when they started screaming and strangely flapping their arms. I didn’t know that something threatening was happening behind my back. I turned and saw in front of me a cloud of fog and the mass that had triggered only seconds before.

Not even a second had passed and an avalanche was already starting to drag me down the slope. With clenched fists, I protected my respiratory organs so that the snow wouldn’t go into my lungs and give in to the flow. Subconsciously, I began to wonder if this is really what the end of life looks like. Then I stopped after 200m. The snow was completely packed like concrete and I was slightly below the surface. I tried to dig myself out a few times, but there is no giant to get out of it. I didn’t want to waste energy, the minutes were counted and I could only wait. I used my hands to create a pocket to breathe easier, even though I was getting increasingly dizzy and hypothermic in the middle of the giant freezer.

With the help of avalanche equipment, friends found me soon and dug me out completely after a few minutes. The first thing I asked myself in shock “Where is my camera?” It was around the neck, and one lens was lost. Cveto found it later on in the summer in the bushes.