In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020 file photo, Brock Crouch finishes his second run of the men’s snowboard slopestyle elimination on day one of X Games Aspen at Buttermilk Ski Area in Aspen, Colo. Snowboarder Brock Crouch was swept away in an avalanche two years ago and buried under the snow for five minutes. He broke his back, tore his pancreas, knocked out five teeth and suffered a concussion. Crouch now has a new recurring dream of making the U.S. slopestyle squad for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. (Liz Copan/Summit Daily News via AP, File)

In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020 file photo, Brock Crouch finishes his second run of the men’s snowboard slopestyle elimination on day one of X Games Aspen at Buttermilk Ski Area in Aspen, Colo. Snowboarder Brock Crouch was swept away in an avalanche two years ago and buried under the snow for five minutes. He broke his back, tore his pancreas, knocked out five teeth and suffered a concussion. Crouch now has a new recurring dream of making the U.S. slopestyle squad for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. (Liz Copan/Summit Daily News via AP, File)

Snowboarder eyes Olympics two years after being buried in B.C. avalanche

Brock Crouch broke his back in an avalanche near Whistler nearly two years ago

A recurring dream frequently woke snowboarder Brock Crouch: Buried alive and unable to move.

He couldn’t shake that nightmare for nearly two months.

Even more, certain sounds — like someone cracking their back — caused flashbacks to that day nearly two years ago when he was caught in an avalanche near Whistler, British Columbia.

Swept away in the snow, Crouch heard his back break as he tumbled about 1,500 feet through a rock-lined chute.

For five minutes, he remained buried deep under the snow until his buddies dug him out.

On his left shoulder, Crouch now has a tattoo of the mountain range that nearly took his life. Along with it, a new recurring dream — to make the U.S. slopestyle squad for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

“Can you imagine going from being buried for nearly 5 minutes to being on the podium at the Olympics?” the 20-year-old from Southern California said. “That accident changed my whole life perspective, on living my every day life.”

RELATED: U.S. snowboarder Brock Crouch survives being buried by avalanche near Whistler

On April 22, 2018, Crouch and some friends took a helicopter trip into the back country to do some filming. Being April, they knew the snow might be a little unstable and were conscious of the avalanche dangers. They scouted the line they intended to traverse and had an exit plan just in case a slide occurred. Crouch was wearing an avalanche airbag as well, along with a locator beacon.

“But it’s Mother Nature you’re dealing with out there,” Crouch cautioned. “The mountain can change at any given second.”

It did.

Standing on a ledge, Crouch was about to start when there was a loud crack.

“The next thing I know, I’m in this big white-wash ball of snow,” Crouch recounted.

He tugged and tugged on a cord to inflate his avalanche bag.

The bag never deployed.

Crouch heard the sound of his back breaking as he uncontrollably plummeted down the mountain. When he finally stopped, he was buried under about 6 feet of snow.

There was no panic. Instead, a sense of calm washed over him as he tried to clear snow from his face. But it was as thick as concrete.

So he closed his eyes.

“I remember thinking, ‘This could be it,’” he recalled. “It will be a gift from God if I make it out of this one.”

ALSO READ: CP Rail line re-opened after avalanche derailment in Glacier National Park

His companions acted quick. One of them raced down on “pretty much straight rock,” Crouch said, to reach him. The others went around the slide as fast as they could.

At the sound of the avalanche, the helicopter pilot was in the air to get to him. He was able to point out the vicinity of Crouch before he disappeared under the snow.

Five minutes later, an unconscious Crouch was dug out by his friends. A few moments after that, he was alert.

“I remember screaming really loud, ‘I broke my back,’” Crouch said.

He was taken to Whistler and transported by ambulance to Vancouver. On their way down, he tried to get the emergency personnel to make a stop at a convenience store.

“I asked if we could go buy a lottery ticket,” Crouch said. “It would’ve been a good day to buy one, because it was my lucky day.”

His injuries: Three fractured vertebrae, torn pancreas, five knocked-out teeth, a black eye (from either hitting a rock or his knee, he’s not sure) and a bad concussion.

The good news: No surgery would be needed to fix the back. There was no nerve damage, either, for the snowboarder who’s been riding as much as he can since he was 3 years old — when he wasn’t surfing or skateboarding — and is sponsored by the likes of Burton boards and Red Bull.

One of the first to reach out to him soon after his accident was the late Jake Burton Carpenter, who founded the Burton snowboard company which helped launch an entire industry. Carpenter died in November after a relapse with testicular cancer.

“He asked for everyone on the crew that helped rescue me,” Crouch said. “He then called all of them individually and thanked them all for all their hard work. He sent them all bottles of champagne. How cool is that?”

After a week in a Vancouver hospital, Crouch was flown back to Southern California.

ALSO READ: Feds announce $25M for Avalanche Canada

Next, the emotional recovery.

He dealt with post-traumatic stress disorder after the avalanche. He had “gnarly dreams” of being buried, he explained. He was dating a girl at the time who cracked her back and brought back such intense memories that he would blurt, “You’ve got to stop that.” Living close to a small airport, the sound of a helicopter affected him.

To help him overcome PTSD, Crouch attended classes that his friend’s mom taught. The sessions helped ease the vivid nightmares.

“It made me a lot more comfortable,” Crouch said. “It’s definitely pretty crazy, how your brain can be like that.”

Six months later, Crouch was back on snow. He went to Switzerland with the U.S. team for a training camp. By the third day, he was already hitting jumps.

The avalanche ordeal caused him to take a long look at his lifestyle. He vowed to take his snowboarding more serious.

“I was like, ‘Well, it’s time to buckle down and get serious and try to make a comeback out of it,’” he said.

He’s taken a big step on the competition front this season by placing fourth at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado. Crouch also finished second to good friend Red Gerard in the slopestyle competition at a Winter Dew Tour stop.

And while he didn’t make the final round at the Burton U.S. Open last weekend in Vail, his exuberance was on display when he greeted Gerard, who took third, and the other finalists.

“We’re not really competitors but best friends,” said Gerard, who won the Olympic slopestyle gold medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. “I’m just happy he’s still here.”

High on Crouch’s future agenda: Return to that mountain spot for another attempt.

“It would be a very special moment,” Crouch said, “riding away from that.”

Pat Graham, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Skiing and Snowboarding

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police seized two fake guns and a knife on Saturday along Gladys Avenue in east Abbotsford.
Man arrested in Abbotsford after having fake gun for second time this year

Officers respond to all firearm calls as if the guns are real, police say

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
UPDATE: Tabor Home records 16 deaths and 124 COVID-19 cases

63 per cent of residents at Abbotsford long-term-care facility have tested positive

Elementary teacher Jo-Ann Lindahl poses with her students following an outdoor ‘closing circle’ in which they discussed what they had learned that day. (Image submitted)
Mission elementary teacher to receive national Indigenous educator award

Jo-Ann Lindahl named a 2020 Guiding the Journey: Educator Award recipient

Google Maps screenshot taken at 7:06 a.m.
Early-morning crash on Highway 1 has morning commuters in gridlock

Westbound crash occurred in Langley, west of 264th Street; left lane blocked

Swoop Airlines. (Contributed)
COVID-19 case reported on Abbotsford-bound flight last week

Affected flight landed in Abbotsford on Nov. 16

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Police lights
Vancouver elementary school locked down after unknown man walks into classroom

Police arrested the man and sent him for a psych evaluation

(Pixabay)
All dance studios, other indoor group fitness facilities must close amid updated COVID-19 rules

Prior announcement had said everything except spin, HIIT and hot yoga could remain open

B.C. Liberal interim leader Shirley Bond speaks to reporters from Prince George via Zoom conference, Nov. 24, 2020. MLAs are being sworn in for the legislature session this week, many of them also by video. (B.C. legislature)
B.C. Liberal leadership contest will wait for election post-mortem

Interim leader set to face NDP on payments for COVID-19

Most Read