Alaskan Ate Frozen Beer to Survive Three Days in Snow Drift

Alaska man ate frozen beer while stuck in snow drift for three days.

December 05, 2011, 4:27 PM

Dec. 5, 2011— -- Clifton Vial was grateful that among the emergency supplies in his car was a 12-pack of beer, even though the beer was frozen solid.

Vial credits eating several of the Coors Light beercicles to stay alive while stuck in a rural Alaskan snow drift for three days.

Vial, 52, of Nome, says he "stupidly" took a drive north of Nome around 9 p.m. on Nov. 28 because the roads were clear and he wanted to see far they remained clear. When he found his car stuck in a snow drift about 40 miles north of Nome, he had his answer.

Vial spent two nights and three long days in whipping winds and snow drifts in the countryside, using the few supplies he had in his truck to keep warm. He wore only jeans, tennis sneakers, a T-shirt, and a light coat.

"I usually carry a sleeping bag and all the provisions, but I didn't have them this time," he told "I usually keep that stuff in case I run across someone in trouble. I never thought I'd need it myself."

Vial said the clutch on his 2000 Toyota Tacoma started burning as he drifted into the snow bank, so he didn't want to push the car too hard trying to get out of the snow. He ran the car intermittently to keep the heat going, but by the third day had nearly run out of gas, he said. Remembering extra tires he had in the back of his truck, Vial said he tried to light them on fire for warmth, but could not get a flame to stay lit in the whipping winds.

Instead, he wrapped himself in the fleece lining from a sleeping bag, stuffed tissue paper in his shoes, wrapped bath towels around his legs and knees, and used a tarp around his shoulders to keep in his body heat.

With no food or water, Vial resorted to eating snow and the frozen cans of Coors Light.

"I'd open the pop top and drain it, because I didn't want to drink the alcohol because it lowers your body temperature. So I squeezed all the liquid out, cut the top off, and I'd eat it with a knife," he said. "Better than the snow."

The low points, however, came at night, when he would try and close his eyes and get some sleep.

"I was seeing people, seeing things that didn't look like people. My imagination was getting out there I guess. The dreams were pretty intense. I was afraid to sleep. I was afraid I wouldn't wake up," Vial said.

When rescuers from Nome's Fire & Rescue squad located Vial's car on the third day of searching, he said he couldn't get out of his car fast enough. The rescuers towed his car out of the snow bank and drove it back to town for him, while Vial tried to eat a little bit of food and begin to replenish his liquids. He lost 10 pounds through the ordeal, he said.

"I'm still drinking a gallon and a half of water a day, trying to rehydrate," he said.

Vial noted that he had received criticism in recent days for traveling at night onto dangerous roads without safety provisions, and he acknowledged it wasn't the smartest move.

"The first thing I did was admit that it was stupid, and I knew better and I shouldn't have been out there," he said. Vial noted that he had not been drinking the beer while driving, and that he often took drives with his dogs at night around the country roads surrounding Nome.

"I had many thoughtful moments when I was there, thinking that I was going to freeze to death. I thought about my daughter and how I couldn't leave her behind and that I wasn't going to die out there," he said.

Vial said he would not be taking anymore nighttime drives on the roads around Nome, at least until next summer.

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