Three skiers killed in Stevens Pass avalanche

Avalanche and rescue education, and general snow science used to determine avalanche risk.
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Three skiers killed in Stevens Pass avalanche

Postby Nobody » Sun Feb 19, 2012 10:04 pm

Three skiers killed in Stevens Pass avalanche .

One dead in separate avalanche at Snoqualmie.

News Video here: http://www.king5.com/news/People-report ... 45233.html

STEVENS PASS, Wash. – Three people were killed in an avalanche at Stevens Pass on Sunday afternoon.

The avalanche occurred at Tunnel Creek Canyon Road in an out of bounds area described as being "ski at your own risk."

Brent Felt said he saw groups of skiers climbing over a place called "Seventh Heaven," heading into the back country.

"I was thinking to myself you know that's a lot of people going out of bounds at this moment but 14 inches of new snow and people want to get some more fresh powder, you know they're going to go seek it out," he said.

When the snow cut loose, it swept up the three groups of skiers in an avalanche.

"At one point after the avalanche they're all buried in the snow," said Sgt. Kathleen Larson, King County Sheriff's Office. "They manage to dig themselves out of the snow. At that point they realize that three of them are in distress. They begin CPR."

Unfortunately CPR didn't work. Three men, ages 30, 35 and 45, were pronounced dead. A fourth person survived.

"There is signage up, letting everybody know that these are out of bounds areas and they opted to ski those particular areas," said Larson.

Felt said he noticed that when he saw those skiers headed out they had the right equipment with them.

"They had their beacons, sensors that were going off every time they were going through the sensory zone," he said.

The fourth skier in the group survived because she was wearing a device used to provide air if swept up in an avalanche.

Also Sunday, a snowboarder was killed in a separate incident at the Alpental ski area at Snoqualmie Pass.
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Re: Three skiers killed in Stevens Pass avalanche

Postby Nobody » Sun Feb 19, 2012 10:32 pm

http://espn.go.com/espn/print?id=759303 ... sPrint=off

Sunday, February 19, 2012
Stevens Pass avalanche kills three
By Devon O'Neil
ESPN.com

Three people were killed in an avalanche in Washington near Stevens Pass ski area Sunday afternoon, ESPN.com has confirmed. The three were skiing in a group of 13 friends that included both local and visiting skiers, according to ESPN Freeskiing editor Megan Michelson, who was among the skiers in the group.

The group was descending a popular route outside the resort boundary accessed via a 10-minute hike from a backcountry gate off the top of the Seventh Heaven chairlift. The avalanche was triggered about noon by one of the skiers who perished in the slide.

Freeskiing World Tour head judge Jim Jack, Stevens Pass Director of Marketing Chris Rudolph and skier John Brenan -- all residents of Leavenworth, Wash. -- were confirmed as the skiers who died in the slide Sunday afternoon.

According to both Michelson and pro skier Elyse Saugstad, who was also in the party of 13, the slide occurred after a number of skiers had already skied the top section of the line, which funnels into the Tunnel Creek drainage. Saugstad was one of four skiers -- along with Rudolph and Brenan -- waiting in the trees approximately 300 vertical feet below the top of the line when the slide was triggered.

Michelson, waiting at the top, said the initial slide was approximately 30 feet wide and three feet deep at the crown. It quickly propagated wider into the trees where Saugstad was standing, sweeping away her and two of the other skiers who died. The fourth skier who was standing with them managed to grab hold of a tree and avoid being taken by the avalanche.

Saugstad and the three deceased skiers were carried between 2,000 and 3,000 vertical feet, she and Michelson estimated. Once she was caught, Saugstad immediately deployed an airbag from her backpack, a device she later credited with saving her life. When she came to rest, "I was completely buried except for my head and hands." Both of the deceased skiers she'd been standing with in the trees were found nearby, Saugstad said. One was a few feet from her and the other was approximately 50 feet away. The third deceased skier was carried "several hundred feet" farther down the mountain, Saugstad said.

The remaining skiers who watched the slide from above immediately turned their avalanche transceivers to "search" mode and skied the length of the avalanche track looking for possible victims, Michelson said. They also called for help. While descending the slide path they found two ski poles and a ski but did not locate anyone until they came upon Saugstad, whom they subsequently dug out. Saugstad estimated she was in the snow for "less than 10 minutes."

"The debris pile at the bottom was massive," Michelson said.

Stevens Pass was hit by a powerful winter storm leading up to Sunday's avalanche. The resort reported 14 inches of fresh snow overnight and 26 inches in the prior 48 hours. The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center rated the avalanche danger as "High" on Sunday morning for elevations 5,000 feet and above and warned of "widespread natural and triggered soft and wind slab avalanches" for the area around Stevens Pass, due to heavy snowfall and strong winds. Stevens Pass ski area's base elevation is 4,061 feet and the summit elevation is 5,845 feet.

All of the people in the group were experienced backcountry skiers and were carrying avalanche rescue gear, Michelson said. They were skiing the line in sections, one by one, in accordance with standard safety protocol.

Two hours south, at Alpental -- one section of Washington's Summit at Snoqualmie resort -- a snowboarder was killed Sunday after triggering an avalanche and being swept over a cliff, according to authorities.
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Re: Three skiers killed in Stevens Pass avalanche

Postby EBSTEVE » Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:50 am

One of my daughters friends was there and ended up with a busted leg, I believe he was one of the 13 people but I am a bit unclear of the details at the moment but apparently he feels lucky to be safe. I will be home from So Cal tomorrow and get better details.

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Re: Three skiers killed in Stevens Pass avalanche

Postby Nobody » Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:06 pm

Wow... It sounds like everyone was properly equiped, just wrong place, wrong time. Give me a call when you get back.
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