By Joseph T. O’Connor ExploreBigSky.com Editor

BOZEMAN – A 26-year-old Bozeman man was airlifted to Bozeman Deaconess Hospital earlier today after being caught in an avalanche south of Bridger Bowl ski area. He was quickly uncovered by ski partners at the scene, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office.

“He’s the luckiest man on the planet,” said Jason Jarrett, a lieutenant with the sheriff’s office and the area Search and Rescue commander. “All the stars were aligned.”

Resort employees called the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office at 2:45 p.m. to report a man injured in an avalanche near Bridger Peak, according to the statement. The man’s ski partners, two off-duty Bridger Bowl patrollers and at least one other skier, dug the man out and assessed his condition, which they reported to include a serious leg injury.

The area Search and Rescue team launched Summit Air Ambulance and other trained backcountry personnel to the scene, where members of the victim’s party, reportedly experienced in helicopter operations, cleared a landing zone.

The air ambulance arrived at the hospital within an hour of the avalanche, the statement reported.

This man is very lucky, said Sheriff Brian Gootkin, attributing the speedy and successful operation to SAR volunteers.

But, Gootkin added, the victim owes his life to his ski partners.

Having at least one partner with you when you travel in the backcountry is critical to survival, Gootkin said, urging backcountry travelers to call 911 for backcountry help.

But don’t rely on cell service in the mountains, where it’s spotty at best, he added in the statement. Always travel with a partner and inform others of your plans.

For a detailed account of the avalanche, visit the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center at mtavalanche.com