Thanks to a Few Friends and the Crystal Mountain Patrol, Emily Anderson Lives to Ski Again

Emily Anderson was enjoying one of the best runs of her life on more than 3 feet of fresh powder at Crystal Mountain in Washington on 18 December. Suddenly, everything changed. Emily could literally feel and hear a massive fissure form and break loose, triggering an avalanche. According to Emily, “You know, you hear a little pop when it starts to go.” Within seconds Emily was pushed into a tree and “encased”, unable to move in a seated position under several feet of snow. She had no transponder or avi air supply, and there was no indication that anyone had been on the trail. Ski Patrol “avi” experts know that only one in 3 survive under those circumstances. Emily noted in the ABC report, “I felt alone, like this could be it.” She added, “I’m very lucky. Everything about it went my way; that’s for sure.”

Emily knew not to ski alone, and she was skiing with two friends that witnessed the incident. One had the ski patrol dispatcher hotline saved on his mobile phone, and immediately called it in. Within 5 minutes a member of the Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol was on the scene, helping Emily’s friends coordinate the search. Shortly after that, the ski patrol’s 4-year-old avalanche rescue dog, Newman, and dozens of patrollers and trained avi rescue personnel were on the scene searching for the 20 year-old. Luckily, many of the patrollers had been nearby doing avalanche control work, siting themselves nearby with rescue gear knowing that the probability of an avalanche is very high during conditions like those on Tuesday.

Another fortuitous circumstance for Emily was that her left hand was near her mouth. She was able to clear the snow from her airway and breathe. Her right hand was completely outstretched, and along with the rest of her body was frozen in place with no chance of movement within seconds. In an avalanche, the tumbling snow heats up as it moves and when it comes to a stop it fills voids and sets everything in place almost instantaneously. According to Crystal Mountain ski patrol director Paul Baugher, Anderson was buried for 10-15 minutes before they found her.

That successful result was done with the assistance of their rescue dog, and by manually probing the snow in their coordinated search. After finding an indication of where Emily might be buried with their probe, they quickly dug her out. Emily had a sore back, but was otherwise in good shape and was even able to ski away from the scene after the ordeal with her two friends. The two men that had been partially buried in the avalanche were carrying avi beacons and an appropriate cache of rescue gear.

ABC reports that Emily is now considering becoming a patroller herself…

The New York Times – Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek