Last season, while filming for Make Believe, Nick McNutt’s worst case scenario became reality: he was fully buried in an avalanche. To make things worse, his avalanche beacon stopped transmitting during the slide, and it was only through a stroke of luck that his partners were able to rescue him. Avalanche rescue is already a difficult task, but without a working beacon, it becomes akin to finding a needle in a haystack.
The day started like any other day in the backcountry for Christina Lustenberger, Ian Mcintosh, Sam Smoothy, and Nick McNutt. For most of early March 2020, this team of big mountain skiers had been filming in the Pemberton area, sampling the massive lines within easy snowmobile access. Following their morning safety check, the team headed towards their objectives. After ticking off their initial lines, Nick was still keen to continue filming, and noticed two smaller pillow lines in the same zone. The first line went flawlessly. However, after dropping in making a turn, a large pillow was knocked loose and tumbled into the exit gully below him under a blind rollover. Nick collided with the funneled avalanche debris on his exit, ripping him through some trees and out onto the lake under feet of snow.
The rest of the group immediately jumped into action, and hastily started searching, but to their horror, they couldn't find a signal. The clock was ticking now, with every second balancing life and death. With the whole crew now on deck, Lusti called for a probe line since it was clear Nick was no longer transmitting. But before they were able to mobilize one, cinematographer Ben Dann found Nick with a lucky probe strike, and the team was able to extricate him from the debris. The tree collision and the crushing trauma of being buried under an avalanche left Nick with a broken arm, coughing up blood, and complaining of chest pain. An hour and a half later, a helicopter was able to bring Nick to safety.
For more information regarding the failure of Nick’s avalanche beacon, read our full report here.