HAILEY A woman who survived an avalanche after being buried in the snow for at least 90 minutes met her rescuers on Thursday night in a Hailey restaurant.

In February, Lesley Martin, her husband George Martin Jr. and two of their friends were snowmobiling when an avalanche buried all four of them. The avalanche happened near Smiley Creek in the Sawtooth National Forest, about 40 miles north of Ketchum and 20 miles southeast of Stanley.

George Martin Jr. was killed in the avalanche; the two friends were able to dig themselves out and go get help for Lesley Martin.

Since the day she was rescued, Lesley Martin has had stored the memory of one special face in her mind, the face of the man who found her. She hasn t seen him since, but her son helped organize a reunion at Sun Valley Brewery.

I'll know the face of the guy that dug me out as soon as I see him, Lesley Martin said.

Martin, a rider with 25 years experience, says they knew there might be a risk of avalanches that day, so the group avoided climbing. She says the avalanche that hit them came down suddenly and didn t initially look like it would get to them.

I heard a crack like a baseball bat, like somebody hit a ball, and I turned around and looked and there was a wall of snow coming at us. It was no more than 100 feet away from us, Lesley Martin said.

She says when she realized what was happening; she put her hands and arms in front of her face and chest and got face-down in the snow.

I was just buried, and the first thing I tried to do was pop my head up, and I couldn't. I was encased. It was like concrete, Lesley Martin said.

The intentional way she put her hands in front of her allowed her to create a small air pocket that lasted for a bit. After that, she was able to slowly use one hand and glove to slice a tiny hole she could feel cold air coming through. Then, she stayed still for an hour and a half, conserving her air and energy.

I kept myself calm. I don't know how or why. But I did, Lesley Martin said.

She had no idea what had happened to the others during those 90 minutes. It turned out her husband had died, likely very quickly from a heart attack. Her friends had dug out but couldn t get their beacons to work to find her.

The couple went to Smiley Creek, where before emergency responders could even get to the Martins, three good Samaritans offered to go out. Those men were Alan Rooney, Justin Stevenson and Nate Scales. Stevenson used his beacon to find her.

He found me immediately. He came right over to me. I heard him yell, I've got her! And he started digging, and I could hear the shovel coming in, Lesley Martin said.

Then, she says she saw the face of Nate Scales, the face she had stored in her memory for six weeks until she met him at the brewery on Thursday night.

I'll never ever forget your face. You look just exactly the way I remember you when I saw you, she told him. Yeah, that was amazing, Scales replied.

Martin says she and her family owe her life to these men, who went right into danger and didn't give up hope in finding her, until they saw her face.

I just thank you guys so much for risking your lives to come and get me. I really do, Lesley Martin told them.

They were just all meant to be there, and I doubt that I was 10 or 15 minutes away from being gone, Lesley Martin said. They put their lives in danger by doing what they did, and they didn't give a second thought to come out and find me. They didn't have to do that.

Lesley Martin says the one thing she wished they d done differently was to practice using avalanche equipment more often, and she advises others to do the same.

We thought we were being very safe. We had no idea an avalanche would travel that far, and people need to know they will. And they need to carry the proper equipment with them and just be aware of their surroundings, Lesley Martin said.

She says after her experience, her advice is to carry newer beacons that can more easily locate people, look at investing in air bags, stay calm, check conditions, and practice using your equipment often.

Read or Share this story: