CARRABASSETT VALLEY — A Portland man who was buried in an avalanche Sunday while skiing Sugarloaf Mountain was back on the slopes Monday, according to Facebook posts.

On Sunday, a number of people posted questions on the public Facebook page “Unofficial Sugarloaf” asking questions about an avalanche. Nathan Sanborn responded to those posts, writing “I can confirm. This is my first hand report. Big thanks to Nik Krueger for digging me out.”

Sanborn, the man trapped by the flowing snow, reflected in his post that no matter how practiced a skier might be, preparation for anything, even the rarest mountainside dangers, is important, stressing skier safety.

“It was a spectacular day on the hill today. The snow gods graced us with 24 (inches) of light, Utah-like powder overnight and a bluebird day to enjoy it,” Sanborn wrote in the Unofficial Sugarloaf post Sunday evening. “The mountain did lash out briefly this morning however, and it bears sharing to remind us all just how dangerous it can be to play in the mountains.”

Sanborn wrote that his second run Sunday morning began with a small chute off Sugarloaf’s Skyline into a pocket of snow he has skied for decades. In a split-second decision that could have taken him off in a different direction, he took his first turn into the familiar pocket and was met with tons of snow that started to move.

“Deep snow,” Sanborn wrote, “which, once moving, pitched me forward and carried me about 20 feet with large slabs breaking over me as we went. I was lucky to get an arm up and was able to swipe snow clear from my face as I came to a stop.”


Sanborn ended up buried up to his neck.

Sanborn was skiing with his wife, Heather, and a group of strangers who all decided to head in the same direction, and he was the first to take off down the trail. After his first two or three turns, Nik Krueger of Old Town followed him down, Sanborn explained.

“Then I noticed that there was a huge shelf on the trail that broke,” Krueger said in a phone interview with the Sun Journal. “It basically swallowed him right up.”

At the same time, one of Krueger’s friends who came down behind him was stuck headfirst in about 2 feet of snow, and Krueger became worried anyone else coming down the trail might trigger another collapse. He told the Sun Journal he first made sure Sanborn was all right and then communicated with his friend a little way behind them who was able to dig himself out.

According to Sanborn’s post, Krueger said he could have easily been on the wrong end of the rescue, but quick reaction, good communication and level heads prevented a bad situation from turning worse. He said the slide went about 50 feet, but with considerable depths after Saturday’s storm, it was potentially dangerous.

“I dug as fast and as hard as I could, probably 10-15 minutes of digging, and I was able to clear him out of the snow, haul him up, made sure that everybody was good, and we just kept skiing for the rest of the day,” Krueger said. “Nathan seemed pretty assertive he was good to go … so, we kind of just went our separate ways.”

There were a few lessons learned Sunday morning, Sanborn said in his Unofficial Sugarloaf post. The first is to never assume you won’t get caught up in an inbound avalanche on the East Coast in a spot you’ve skied for years. He said you should never ski lines where you might not be found. Sanborn mentioned that he should have had a whistle and cautioned that phones should not be kept in base layers or a pants pocket, but somewhere up higher on the body and more accessible.

“I’ve dropped this line by myself dozens of times — it’s right next to a trail and only a few hundred feet long, but long enough,” Sanborn said. “And remote enough, in retrospect. The most surprising thing — well, other than finding myself in a slide in the first place — was how calm I stayed about the whole thing … As I started sliding face-first downhill I also immediately realized I should try to get face-up and get an arm up and I’m very thankful for that. Respect the mountains friends. They are a wonderland, but they won’t hesitate to bite. Hard.”

A video taken Sunday of a snow slide on Sugarloaf’s White Nitro Trail is here:

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