Buried Alive: What It's Like to Be Rescued from an Avalanche

Avalanche rescue teams in Colorado offer an inside look at responding to an avalanche.
3:00 | 02/13/14

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Transcript for Buried Alive: What It's Like to Be Rescued from an Avalanche
Tonight, large parts of the country are yet bratsing for a major cold front this record-breaking winter. But in the Colorado rockies where mother nature can turn deadly in a matter of seconds, they're on high alert for avalanches right now. The rescue teams can mean the difference between life and death. So what's it like to be trapped in an avalanche? ABC ventured west to find out. Reporter: This is what an avalanche looks like. In a terrifying closeup. A snowmobiler triggers a slide. Second later, it catches up with him. Insta instantly, he is buried. He survives, but tonight, with avalanche deaths on the rise -- two more dead now in Oregon -- and nearly the entire west on high alert, we journeyed deep into the Colorado rockies. To find out what it's like to be caught and rescued from the rush of a raging avalanche. 12,000 feet up, I'm about to be buried alive. Are you going to be able to hear me? No, not at all. All right, here we go. From the moment I'm locked in a claustrophobic snow coffin, the entrance sealed, the clock is ticking. The further you get to thline, the deeper the snow is. It's already been a deadly avalanche winter with 12 people killed in the U.S., six in just the last few days. And statistics tell us about 20 more will die this season. Ed win lamare was almost one of them. His brother Davis was recording this dramatic video in December as Edwin is suddenly swept away. Eds wi eds within, only his head visible can hardly breathe. The longer you're under there, and the trouble is, you can't breathe. People think that, I mean, you look at this snow here. I mean, it's fluffy white. But what happens after an avalanche? It kind of turns into this. Try to hold this thing up. It's pretty heavy. This is like concrete almost. It's exactly like concrete. When the snow starts an avalanche, it starts getting churned up. Heat, pressure, and everything, it bonds together real tight and it just locks up like concrete. There's another great avalanche right here. There are 1 million acres of avalanche terrain in Colorado. Mostly in places roads don't go. Nice avalanche here. There's at least a couple of days old. Our guide is veteran pilot Patrick maheny. The avalanche I'm going to show you is right about my 2:00. You can see where the snow let go. When disaster strikes, dozens of volunteer avalanchers assemble. We can get to a real remote location like we're coming up to here in the ten-mile range in a matter of minutes, whereas a hiking team would take hours. Snowmobile would take maybe hours if you could even get a snow mobile up there. Getting further away now. Reporter: In our drill, 28-year-old Amanda slater is one of the first on scene. Her partner, 4-year-old reko, trained to sniff out victims buried under the snow. They've been a team for three years. We're beginning our search right now. Six feet under, I wait trapped. Very claustrophobic and a little unnerving to be in here. It's dark. I can't see well. And to think a real avalanche victim would have far less room, could not move around, probably wouldn't be able to breathe is terrifying. You can try to swim, try to fight to stay on the surface, grab a tree. There are certain avalanches that you can't do a thing. You're at the mercy of the power of the avalanche. And you're just along for the ride. Your best bet is education and the right equipment and not being in the wrong place at the wrong time. . Reporter: For most of us, surviving a winter means dressing warm in layer, protecting hands and feet and staying hydrated. Avalanche country, extra safety gear is critical, like these air bags and emergency beacons. It's telling you there's a beacon that's 19 meters away. And we just go towards that signal. And then we start probing. If the area is too big to cover on foot, maheny swoops in to search from the air. Avalanche forecasters are in a nonstop race to perfect the science of predicting when and where a slide might start. The key ingredient, a weak layer of snow, a danger often invisible from above. The problem is, all of this strong snow is resting down here on this very weak sugary snow. So all we've got to do is find a shallow part of the snow pack, collapse the snow, and then you can see how wide and deep these avalanches are breaking. A slide like this has got devastating consequences. These are bone crushing, tree snapping, we're not coming home to our families kinds of avalanches. If a victim hasn't been found after 15 minutes, the chances for surviving rapidly drop. I've been down here for about 15 minutes now. Even if something were to happen to me down here, they wouldn't be able to hear me yell and I can't hear what's going on on the surface. I'm hoping the dog is close. Looks like he's got something. Thankfully, she is. My hero. My hero, hello. Are you hurt at all? I'm okay. It's hard to breathe down here. Okay. I'm rescued. Time for me to get out of here. Well, that for a drill was terrifying. The humans on the team know their mission is deadly serious. But it's different for dogs like reko and 6-year-old copper. It's all a game for her. And so for her and for every other avalanche dog, this is the most fun game in the world. And when they find someone in the avalanche, they get the best reward ever. And so we have special rewards for them that they only get when they find a person in an avalanche. Jimmy: What is it? Ours is a flip pi flopper. What is this? What do you do for this? Huh? Yeah? She knows. Is this the best toy ever? Good girl. Good girl. Reporter: For "Nightline," I in the Colorado rockies.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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