The avalanche in Washington state on Sunday has gone down as one of the deadliest in American history since the early 20th century, with three confirmed fatalities as of Monday morning.
At an out-of-bounds area at Stevens Pass ski area in the Cascade Mountains, about a dozen skiers were caught in the slide that sent them down 1,500 to 2,000 feet and buried most in at least three feet of snow, according to reports by CBS News in Washington.
Professional skier Elyse Saugstad immediately deployed an ABS avalanche airbag from her backpack, designed specifically to float a user to the top of sliding snow in an avalanche. She credits the airbag for saving her life. Saugsted found herself atop the snow once the avalanche subsided. “I was completely buried except for my head and hands,” Saugsted said to CBS.
Almost all the skiers were buried beneath the snow but were able to dig themselves out. The three who died were given CPR after being dug out, but were unable to be saved.
She aided in the search and rescue of the other skiers buried beneath the surface.
The ski resort’s website reported two feet of snowfall the night before. The new snow combined with the weak base layer due to a dry winter makes for high-risk avalanche conditions.
The following video is a real-life demonstration of the Snowpulse Avalanche Airbag, deployed by a snowboarder experiencing a real avalanche. The airbag, similar to Saugstad’s, likely saves the snowboarder’s life.
Photo: Jeff Wilcox