Grace Lakes - Snowshoe Field Trip Leaders Assist Young Skier

An 11-year-old skier fell while skiing at Stevens Pass. He made three loud, urgent screams. This incident was within hearing distance of several snowshoe students and instructors. Two leaders responded, but who was this other wilderness first aider?
David Shema David Shema
Safety Committee Chair
January 10, 2018

Grace Lakes, Stevens Pass - January 21

Snowshoe Field trip LEADER REPORT


During the Basic Snowshoe field trip on Saturday, Jan 21 at Grace Lakes, an 11-year-old skier fell while skiing. He was a few hundred yards and about 40 feet up slope above the first of the Grace Lakes. He made three loud, urgent screams. This incident was within hearing distance from where several snowshoe students and instructors were grouped.

We decided that the Day Lead and one spare instructor would go up the slope to assist the boy. When we reached the boy (Alex), his father had already reached him. Alex had torqued his right knee when he fell and was in pain. He and his father did not have packs or radios with them. I communicated via radio with another field trip leader who was down below with a student who had the Ski Patrol on the phone.

They relayed information that I was providing via radio: yes to breathing, yes to conscious, yes to talking, no open wounds/bleeding, no apparent broken bones or fractures, age, gender, and location coordinates.

While a bit surprised by the ordeal, Alex remained stable, conscious, talking, and did not appear to be declining. Ski patrol reported that they would send assistance to the location.

After five minutes, Alex felt better and began gingerly walking down slope with the assistance of ski poles to the CAT track. This trip took about 5-6 minutes, and I broke trail for him when there was none to follow. At the CAT track, we waited with him and his father for another 7-8 minutes. I twice offered ibuprofen which was declined because "he doesn't do well with pills."

When the patrol still had not arrived, Alex decided he could independently start walking out on his own. Confident that Alex's injuries were minor, we bid the son and father farewell.

Later in the day, as our field trip group walked down from the lakes, we ran into the ski patrol who had since met up with Alex and his father. He reported that Alex was fine. We later saw Alex and his father skiing past us - at normal speed.

There was another side to this incident - a person who went up the slope to respond to the boy. This person was with Alex and his father when we reached them. It turns out she was one of our students, who had left her group without permission to respond to the incident.

I was focused on getting information from the boy and his father in order to get it relayed to ski patrol so it took me a few minutes to understand that the fourth person with us was one of our students who separated from her group. Once I found out, I sent her back to her group.

Lessons Learned

In terms of how we handled working with Alex, his father, and the ski patrol, I believe we responded appropriately.

With regard to our student who also rushed to the scene, I appreciated her willingness to want to help/respond, and I did not want to give her feedback at the moment about how her actions could have made things worse. In hindsight, I wish I had pulled her aside at the end of the day to explain the potential consequences of her 1) acting solo in a backcountry first aid scenario, and 2) separating from her group without discussing with her instructors.

I later learned that she had just recently completed the Wilderness First Aid course.

The snowshoe committee debriefed on how to follow up with the student and future protocols.


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