WHITEHORSE — Paul Goulet only had a split second to turn around and brace for the impact of an avalanche before a first wall of snow hit him.
"We didn't see it coming," the Ottawa man said in an interview Thursday.
"Everybody always talks about how loud it is. It was completely silent."
Goulet, 44, said he and six friends were backcountry skiing Wednesday at Log Cabin Mountain, 180 kilometres south of Whitehorse near the B.C.-Alaska boundary, when two avalanches struck.
Two skiers from his group had already reached the summit. Goulet and his friend, Gaetan Martel, were about 150 metres behind when he said he heard Martel screaming. Then they were caught up in an avalanche.
Goulet said he was half-buried in the snow but managed to keep his head up when a second slide hit, pushing both men down the slope and over a small ridge.
The two men dug themselves out with the help of a third man.
Goulet broke his right leg after his ski became twisted, but instead of calling a helicopter for a lift, he slid down the mountain on his stomach. He was then transported to hospital.
Goulet is an experienced backcountry skier and said he didn't panic when the avalanches struck.
"At no time I was thinking, 'This is it,'" said the father of three young children.
"I told myself, 'I need to keep riding this thing down and stay at the top.'"
Goulet said he wasn't sure they would have survived had the second and more powerful avalanche come down first.
"(The first avalanche) gave me almost just time to get a feel of what to do in it," Goulet said.
"I kept pulling myself up to the top. You can see the light when you're in the snow."
The avalanche was half a metre deep, 450 metres long and about 200 metres wide.
Avalanche Canada is reminding backcountry skiers to be cautious as the weather warms in B.C. and Yukon.
James Floyer, an Avalanche Canada forecaster, said every backcountry skier should have the appropriate training and an avalanche kit, which includes a shovel, a transceiver-receiver beacon and a pole to locate people buried under snow.
For backcountry skiers, Goulet stresses the importance of always being prepared.
"Even in places where it's not supposed to happen, it can happen."
He said all members in his group were experienced skiers in their 40s and 50s, and they didn't attempt any major descents.
On Wednesday night, after the two men were released from hospital, the group headed to a bar next to their hotel for karaoke night.
Goulet said he doesn't usually sing at karaoke nights, but this time was special.
"We went for a little celebration of life," he said, chuckling. (Whitehorse Star)
Pierre Chauvin, Whitehorse Star, The Canadian Press