Toby Kravet is recovering in Dunedin Hospital after
breaking his legs and spending 17 hours trapped in snow
near Treble Cone last month. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Toby Kravet wants his ashes scattered on the mountain
where he almost died last month.
The 72-year-old American has spent almost five weeks in
Dunedin Hospital after severely breaking his legs and
spending 17 hours stuck in snow near Treble Cone last month.
''I am a very lucky man.''
Mr Kravet, who lives in Hawaii, has been a regular visitor to
New Zealand for 17 of the past 20 years, to ski in Queenstown
and Wanaka during winter.
''I fell in love with this place. I love the people. I love
the atmosphere,'' he said from Dunedin Hospital yesterday.
That feeling remains despite his ordeal on the night of
Monday, August 19.
About 2.30pm, Mr Kravet set off on his last run of the day,
but extremely poor visibility caused him to turn right
instead of going straight down the mountain. He soon realised
''this was a major screw-up'' when he could not find any
fence line or hear the chairlifts.
''All of a sudden, I go over the lip of a gully, go down and
BANG, my ski tips jam into the embankment and I jerk out of
my bindings ... I immediately knew my left leg was broken
because the tip of my boot is looking back at me.''
Trying to get his legs in a comfortable position, he looked
around and assessed his predicament.
''I have two broken legs and this still amazes me when I
think about it now,'' he said yesterday afternoon, before
wiping away tears.
''I was totally focused, no panic, no emotion. I just said
they are going to have to find me and get me out of here.''
He grabbed his skis and placed them vertically and put his
poles in a cross position to attract any searchers.
''In the meantime, I was looking at my ski tracks coming down
the other side and I am thinking 'usually my skis are closer
together than that. That is embarrassing. I hope some snow
covers those tracks'.''
''The crazy ... that goes through your mind'' included a
thought that if he died, at least he died doing what he
loved, on his favourite mountain.
A keen reader of survival stories, the former Bostonian knew
the importance of staying warm and so began a series of four
exercises, including clapping his hands, and moving his arms
in a circular motion in sets of 100.
At 5pm, the cloud lifted and he saw a helicopter searching an
area near the skifield, but had no idea how out of bounds he
''This is when I knew it was all over for the day.''
He said the only illogical thing he did was to continue to
yell for help, and would ''eat snow to keep his vocal cords
With no food and with no service on his cellphone, he put a
balaclava over his head and prepared to wait out the night.
''I didn't look at my watch the whole night because if I saw
how slow the time was going, I would have got frustrated.''
While the temperatures were reportedly near zero, his
sheltered position meant he did not feel cold and he spent
the night repeating his exercises and watching the stars.
''I hallucinated a couple of times. I thought I saw a beach
at one point, but I just tried to fight off sleep ... just
stay awake and keep moving. My whole thing was to just get
through the night.''
Not long after daybreak, he saw a helicopter and began waving
his poles in the hope of attracting attention. At one point,
it disappeared over the ridge line and ''I am thinking, did
he see me, did he see me?''But then the helicopter and his
rescuers reappeared. One asked him to rate his pain out of
''I said 'three but I don't know if I will say that when I
take my boots off.'
''In the chopper, all I could think about was what I would
give to look out at the scenery but I am on my back and I
can't see [anything].''
He was later transferred to Dunedin Hospital, following fears
he was going to lose his leg. Instead, Mr Kravet, who used to
work as a vocational rehabilitation counsellor, received
treatment for a clean fracture near his right ankle. A
titanium rod was inserted from his knee to his ankle, which
is fixed with two screws.
His left leg, which had bone coming out from his skin, was
stitched up and enclosed in a cage to stabilise it. Several
plates were inserted to fix bones in place.
The medical team was pleased with the operations, but the
keen long-distance runner has been told he is unlikely to run
Skiing and hiking, his two other passions, may also prove
difficult but Mr Kravet is determined to stay healthy and
''If I wasn't fit and healthy I would't have done what I did
out there,'' he said.
In the short term, he was resigned to spending the next six
weeks in a wheelchair and hopefully make his annual trip to
his sister's home in Florida for Thanksgiving.
He hoped to return to New Zealand when fully recuperated. He
thanked his rescuers, police, helicopter personnel, his
friend, Paula Squire-Thomas, for keeping his family informed,
and medical staff at Dunedin Hospital.
Mr Kravet said he was overwhelmed by the care packages and
messages sent to him and particularly touched by one Dunedin
police officer, who helped arrange for his belongings to be
returned to him.
''You guys down here are tremendous,'' he said with tears
streaming down his face, as he recalled his experience.
He was now preparing to return to Hawaii on Monday, where he
plans to recover and update his will.
''When I die, my nephew is getting a free trip to New
Zealand, because one of the places I want my ashes scattered
is Treble Cone.''