An avalanche claimed the lives of three skiers in an out-of-bounds area of Stevens Pass Ski Resort near Skykomish, WA on Sunday. A snowboarder died in a separate avalanche at The Summit at Snoqualmie in nearby Easton, WA, less than an hour earlier.
During the Stevens Pass tragedy, professional skier Elyse Saugstad recalls hearing her friend shout "avalanche!," according to the Seattle Times. "The next thing I knew I was taking more than a 2,000-foot ride down an avalanche, tumbling and turning and tossing the entire way," she added. Saugstad came to a halt with her face exposed - this was not the case for three of her friends. In what has been described as Washington's deadliest avalanche in years, the three expert skiers were swept away and suffocated. Fifteen skiers in all were hit, and families confirmed that among the dead are Chris Rudolph, 30, the marketing director for Stevens; and Jim Jack, 46, of Leavenworth, a freeskiing judge. The third victim has not yet been identified as of Sunday night. Just before the avalanche at Steven's Pass, an unnamed snowboarder, also in an out-of-bounds area at The Summit at Snoqualmie, triggered a different avalanche, and was swept 500 feet over a cliff, according to the King County, WA Sheriff's Office.
Saugstad, who sometimes skis in Europe, where inflatable emergency air bags are popular, had her own, and activated it, as the avalanche was occurring. Below is a video of an inflatable device of the same design being put to use:
Another skier grabbed onto a tree, and was able to keep his head above the snow. The skiers who'd died ended up being buried deep, with one of them being located very close to where Saugstad ended up. Megan Michelson, freeskiing editor for ESPN, who was also part of the group, states that as the avalanche calmed, she began skiing back and forth, using her snow beacon to try to get signals from the emergency beacons of the buried skiers. Those who weren't injured were digging and attempting to administer CPR, but it was too late.
Here are some Twitter reactions:
— K2 Snowboarding (@K2snowboarding) February 20, 2012
The ski community lost three good men today on Stevens Pass. Our thoughts are with their friends and family. es.pn/AoQlx4
— ESPN Freeskiing (@ESPN_Ski) February 20, 2012
— Skiing Magazine (@Skiingmag) February 20, 2012