Tracker Throwback: Powder Magazine Editor Rescues Partner in Japan “Pow Frenzy”

Here’s a great success story from long ago (March 2001) that marked BCA’s second-ever recorded avalanche transceiver save. The story below appeared in 2001 in Transworld Snowboarding.

BCA’s Bruce Edgerly was skiing in Whistler recently (March 2017) and upgraded his old friend Leslie Anthony to a Tracker3. Les was still using the same Tracker DTS that “Edge” had given him off his own chest while staying at Anthony’s Whistler condo 16 years ago — and that Les used shortly thereafter to rescue filmmaker Ben Mullin on a huge powder day in Japan. Understandably, Les was very attached to it (but it was time).

Anthony and two industry colleagues were skiing “on assignment” in an out-of-bounds area in Naeba, Japan in exceptional powder conditions.  The resulting “powder frenzy” and their close proximity to the resort, he said, created a false sense of security. “We were taking minimal precautions,” said Anthony, an experienced backcountry skier. “There weren’t a lot of us wearing transceivers. It was one of those days where everyone left the hotel not expecting the kind of conditions that we had. Fortunately, Ben and I never leave home without ours.”

Leslie (a.k.a. “Doc”) Anthony is a Canadian author, a longtime writer and editor for Powder Magazine, and he holds a Ph.D in reptilian biology. His story is a reminder never to leave home without your safety gear–even if you’re just spinning a casual lap or two out of bounds.

Canadian Journalist Rescues Avalanche Victim with Tracker DTS Avalanche Transceiver


“Doc” Anthony is a certified intellectual, but sometimes loses his composure when discussing U.S. politics.

March 20, 2001, originally reported by TransWorld SNOWboarding.

NAEBA, JAPAN – A Canadian ski journalist rescued a buried avalanche victim using the Tracker DTS avalanche transceiver. Leslie Anthony, 43, of Whistler, B.C. performed the recovery outside the Naeba ski resort, approximately 100 miles northwest of Tokyo, Japan. The avalanche victim, 31-year-old cinematographer Ben Mullin of Olympic Valley, California, sustained a skull fracture,severe head lacerations, and a punctured lung.

The loose snow avalanche occurred at approximately 3:00 p.m. in a sparsely gladed backcountry area immediately adjacent to Naeba. The resort had received over three feet of new snow over the past week. The slide travelled approximately 400 vertical feet before coming to rest, where it created an avalanche debris pile approximately 100 feet wide by 100 feet long, according to Anthony. He, Mullin, and photographer Flip McCririck of Golden, Colorado were skiing in Naeba.

Anthony said he did not see Mullin when he was caught, but witnessed the avalanche as it pummelled numerous trees, then came to rest on a flatbench. He then skied down to the deposition area, where he immediately picked up Mullin’s signal. After pinpointing the victim’s location, Anthony freed Mullin’s head, which was buried approximately one foot beneath the snow surface. Mullen was unconscious at the time of the avalanche burial, but regained consciousness at the scene. Once Mullin was completely excavated, McCririck stayed with him to control the bleeding while Anthony sought help from the Naeba ski patrol. A team of patrollers arrived back at the scene approximately one hour later and evacuated Mullin to a regional hospital.

“I’ve never seen anything move so fast in my life,” said Anthony, who was approximately ten feet from the slide when it released. McCririck was also caught in the avalanche, but escaped almost immediately.

Without an avalanche transceiver, Mullin may have lost his life, Anthony concluded. Without an avalanche transceiver, he and McCririck would have had to probe the entire deposition area.

According to statistics from the American Avalanche Association, approximately 70 percent of avalanche fatalities are caused by asphyxiation; approximately 30 percent are the result of trauma. The majority of those who survive are recovered within 15 minutes of the avalanche burial.

“It was so quick,” Anthony said, regarding the Tracker DTS. “I put it in search mode and I had a direction and distance right away. I went the direction it said and I found him less than 30 seconds later.”

“I feel good for having been there for Ben,” Anthony said. “But it’s tempered by the nonchalant attitude that was going on. Things could have easily gone the other way. I think this was a big wakeup call for everybody.”

“The underscore of this episode is never to let your guard down,” concluded Mullin. “Always put your seat belt on when you get in the car, so to speak. At least I was with the right guys. I’ll be forever indebted to them–and to those avalanche beacons.”

The Tracker DTS was the world’s first digital avalanche rescue transceiver when introduced in 1997 by BCA, touching off a revolution in user-friendly avalanche transceiver design. In 2001, the Tracker DTS become the top-selling avalanche transceiver in the world.

The incident at Naeba was the second time in 2001 in which a Tracker DTS was used to make a live avalanche victim recovery. On January 3, 2001 snowmobiler Jeff Swaan, 15, rescued friend Jesse Bowden, 18, under 6 feet of debris after a large snowslide near Quesnel, B.C. Both youths had received their BCA Trackers as Christmas presents just one week before the accident occurred.