Skiers and snowboarders on the slopes near DiableretsSkiers and snowboarders on the slopes near Diablerets (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)
Geneva (AFP) - A 19-year-old American student who disappeared over the weekend while skiing in the Swiss Alps was rescued after 48 harrowing hours lost in the snow, police said Wednesday.
After searching for more than two days rescuers finally found the US teen, who went missing while skiing Sunday near the Diablerets resort in southern Switzerland, police in the canton of Vaud said in a statement.
"The man was found conscious, in a state of hypothermia and exhaustion, and stuck waist-deep in the thick blanket of snow," the statement said, describing his survival as "miraculous".
Police said the teenager had disappeared while trying to "free ride" back to the resort, but the skier, a student at Switzerland's top technical school EPFL, told Swiss public broadcaster RTS he had not wanted to go off-piste but had become lost in a snow storm.
"I started following the supports for the chair-lift ... and it started to snow pretty hard, and I just ended up in this ravine," he said, speaking from his hospital bed in Zweisimmen near Bern.
The man, whose name was not given, said there were probably 35 metres on either side of him and he realised that the only way to get down the mountain was to continue hiking down the ravine.
- Tried to stay warm -
"I tried to keep moving and tried to stay warm," he said, adding that on Monday night he had built a small embankment and slept for about six hours.
He added that at one stage he had to cross a pond of water up to his neck.
The ravine ended in a steep waterfall which prevented further progress, but the US student finally managed to scramble up one of the banks of the ravine and began yelling for help.
"I probably spent four to five hours just sitting there yelling," he said, adding that by Tuesday afternoon a couple of people were walking down a nearby road and heard him.
"Then I knew I was going to get out," he said.
Police said the man was lucky to be alive, pointing out that he "was relatively well-equipped when it came to clothing, but had no working means of communication and none of the vital material needed when skiing off-piste," including shovels and sensors.
The skier, whose life was not in danger, was taken by helicopter to the Zweisimmen hospital near Bern.
The American's rescue came after 11 off-piste skiers were killed in avalanches in the Swiss Alps over a period of four days, following heavy snow-fall.