Avalanches Kill Two; One Survives to Tell the Tale

Three skiers in western mountains found themselves in the midst of a snowy nightmare this weekend when heavy snowfall triggered multiple avalanches.

Two of the skiers died, but one survived by "swimming" for his life.

Matt Jones was skiing on a slope called Lover's Leap in Vail, Colo., when he suddenly felt the snow break under him.

"I landed fine, made one turn to the left and I heard a whumph and knew the slope was sliding," Jones told "Good Morning America." "I tried to get my skis pointed down the hill and hopefully ski out from one of the sides. It was too late at that point. I knew it had me. ... It was just a matter of trying to ride it down and stay on top and keep from getting buried."

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To survive, Jones said he swam and screamed through the avalanche, which was 150 feet wide, 600 feet long and 3 feet deep.

"I had always read and been taught just to kind of use your arms as best you can to try to stay on top. That's what I tried to do in addition to screaming quite a bit -- just trying to make sure I didn't get buried," he said.

But even after such a harrowing experience Jones said he's not done with the mountain.

"I would most definitely [ski there again]," Jones said. "The Vail ski patrol, they do a great job of mitigating avalanche dangers inside the resort boundaries. [It was] a very rare incident."

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Heather Gross, 27, fell into a similar situation when she was skiing with friends on Mount Baldy in Utah but when the avalanche stopped moving, she was buried in the snow for more than an hour. She was found unconscious and alive, but she later died.

Gross had recently completed a language study program in China and had traveled the world before that, her father, Dennis Gross, told the Salt Lake Tribune.

"She did a life worth of living in 27 years," he said.

Cory Brettman, 52, met the same fate when he was caught in an avalanche in Aspen, Colo.

Brettman, who worked on the ski patrol for 26 years, was found at around 9 p.m., the Aspen Times reported. He had suffocated in the snow.

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Last year, avalanches killed a record-breaking 36 people.

The Forest Service's National Avalanche Center provides information about avalanches including how to avoid one, what to do if caught in one and how best to conduct a rescue if a companion disappears during one.

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