An experienced skier was buried alive on Crystal Mountain in Washington Monday when more than 3 feet of snow triggered an avalanche in the area where she was skiing.
Emily Anderson was buried beneath the avalanche for up to 15 minutes, according to Crystal Mountain ski patrol director Paul Baugher.
Baugher said that the area had received 40 inches of snow in about 35 hours Sunday and Monday, and when a small section of terrain was opened to expert skiers, dozens of ski patrols and avalanche control staff were sent to the site.
"In a big storm like this we have a little place, a little pocket like this ... and this person and her party triggered this small little pocket in this innocuous place," Baugher said.
"Because of a lot of good things, you had not only the ski patrol, which was out there doing avalanche control work, but they were pre-positioned with equipment. We always watch while the first skiing gets done ... just in case there's an 'oops,' because you can never get the risk to zero."
When Anderson was overtaken by the rushing snow, her fellow skiers realized she was missing and used a cell phone to call the ski patrol dispatcher, a phone number they had saved before embarking on their adventure.
Within five minutes a ski patrol member showed up to assist the skiers in searching for their friend, Baugher said.
Baugher said that ski patrol members were specially trained in where to look for survivors of an avalanche immediately after it occurs. The patrol member instructed Anderson's friends in how to use their poles to search specific areas for signs of her.
"We had a guy on the scene in five minutes, and he was able to organize the good inbound powder skiers, who had collapsible probe poles, and they figured out where to start probing, and then, boom, this gal was found," Baugher said. "She spent maybe 10 to 15 minutes under the snow. She came out just great, she really did."
Anderson was not carrying an avalanche beacon with her at the time, although members of her party were.
Two other skiers were partially buried in the avalanche but were able to free themselves, Baugher said.
Anderson skied down the mountain herself after her ordeal.
"It was a great outcome because we were prepared and the guys that ski this terrain were prepared too. They carried all the right equipment and kept everyone in sight, and they knew the number. It was a great combination," Baugher said.