Injured heli-skier airlifted to hospital after fall near Girdwood

Zaz Hollander
Josh Varney

A medical helicopter rescued a 27-year-old man injured in a skiing accident in the backcountry about five miles southeast of Girdwood, Alaska State Troopers said.

A man called 911 just after noon Sunday to report that his skiing partner, Girdwood resident Jeffrey Krizman, had been hurt in an accident on Blueberry Ridge, troopers said in an online release posted late Sunday. The pair had chartered a helicopter, meaning they got dropped off without a trained heli-ski guide.

Krizman started his first run "when he slid on icy slopes and went over a cliff," the release said. He suffered multiple injuries and couldn't move, the caller told dispatchers.

A nearby skier who helped in the rescue, Josh Varney, told the Daily News that Krizman was snowboarding and lost his edge while making his first turn on what is known as the Peterson Headwall. Varney said Krizman appeared to have tumbled about 900 feet.

In his call for help, Krizman's ski partner described their location as three miles from the Seward Highway, troopers said. A LifeMed Alaska helicopter responded to a nearby landing zone.

Varney and his partner, also a skier, saw Krizman's partner ski to the helicopter and wave them over, Varney said. Four of them brought a backboard about 300 feet up the slope to Krizman, who was conscious but scraped and bruised, Varney said.

"(He was) just super cold. He'd been sitting there in the shade for, I think a solid hour I remember him saying," Varney said.

The men put extra coats on Krizman, got him into a bag on the backboard and slid the injured man down to the helicopter, Varney said.

The helicopter took Krizman to Providence Alaska Medical Center with injuries described as non-life- threatening. He wasn't listed on the hospital's patient roster as of Monday morning, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Girdwood-based Alpine Air Alaska was the company that dropped off Krizman and his partner.

Alpine is a transportation company that's known more for its summer program bringing elite skiers to a training camp on Eagle Glacier above Girdwood than individual ski charters, said manager Deb Essex. All clients sign liability waivers.

Dropping off skiers in winter for chartered flights is rare, and something the company only does for local skiers, Essex said. Krizman and his partner had hiked up to ski the same area a few days earlier and knew the snowpack and terrain, she said.

"If people want to go heli-skiing, they should call Chugach Powder Guides," Essex said. "They do it really well."

While the risk of an avalanche has decreased in the area recently, Varney said the danger of melted and refrozen, icy snow has created another hazard.

"This season, man, super- low snowpack and finally in the last week you've started to be able to get on the steep stuff, but I think people are jonesing a little too hard," Varney said. "I guarantee if they had walked up it, he would've entered that couloir with a lot less speed."

Reach Zaz Hollander at zhollander or 257-4317. Reporter Casey Grove contributed to this story.