A 12-year-old boy was skiing off-piste in the French Alps on Wednesday, trying to avoid the avalanche, when disaster struck. According to police in the French town of Bourg Saint-Maurice, he was part of a group of seven skiers at the La Plagne ski resort when a huge section of snow broke away and started barrelling down the hillside.

When the young boy saw what was happening, he immediately headed down ahead of the group. However, as the large section of snow detached, it came roaring down the mountain towards him. The young boy was the only one affected by the incident and was reportedly dragged some 100 metres (109 yards) by the force of the avalanche.

The rest of the group helplessly watched the incident happen.

12-year-old miraculously survives an avalanche

As reported by ITV News, the young boy’s rescuers are calling it a true Christmas miracle, as the boy was found alive and well after 40 minutes completely buried under the snow. As reported by CBS News, the only injury the young boy suffered in the incident was a broken leg.

Emergency workers had to fly in by helicopter to the scene of the avalanche, which happened at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,875 feet).

His rescuers knew they only had a short time to find the young boy but it took almost an hour to find him. The rescue was miraculous due to the fact that chances of survival are minimal after 15 minutes buried under so much snow.

Reportedly the boy’s winter jacket did not have an avalanche detector, but it was a sniffer dog that found him buried under the snow.

It turns out the reason the young boy did survive was that his airways were reportedly – and luckily – not blocked by the snow.

Boy’s survival under so much snow was a true Christmas miracle

Vail News reports that the police team’s dog master, Sergeant Major Raphaël Chauvin, said to the rescue dog, the young boy’s scent came up from the snow and spread like smoke coming from a chimney.

The dog immediately headed for the boy’s scent and began to scratch in the snow, looking for him. Captain Patrice Ribes of the Bourg Saint-Maurice police said they could definitely call it a Christmas miracle. In fact, it was the day after Christmas, but yet another gift had arrived in the form of his survival.

Once rescued, the 12-year-old boy was then airlifted to a local hospital in the helicopter and treated for his injury. The youngster is reportedly fine and well after his almost tragic accident.