2012 Tunnel Creek avalanche
The 2012 Tunnel Creek avalanche occurred on February 19, 2012, at about noon in the Tunnel Creek section of Stevens Pass, a mountain pass through the Cascade Mountains located at the border of King County and Chelan County in Washington, U.S. There were three fatalities and one injured. The avalanche was characterized as a slab avalanche, or 200 feet across and 3 feet deep. Three days before the avalanche occurred, a large snow storm dumped 32 inches into Stevens Pass. This resulted in the unstable snow pack that was disrupted by skiers on their excursion.
The avalanche was triggered when fifteen of the nation's top free skiers and free snowboarders were making a run together. They had been gathered by Chris Rudolph, a charismatic marketing director at the attached ski resort. One or more of the skiers triggered the avalanche 300 feet below the top of the mountain. Starting at an elevation of 5800 feet and a slope of 42 degrees, it rushed down 2,650 vertical feet, carrying away five skiers. One of the skiers wedged himself between two trees and avoided being swept away as the avalanche rushed over him. Another skier, Elyse Saugstad, deployed an avalanche survival airbag and suffered minor injuries, despite being trapped until her fellow skiers rescued her. The remaining three skiers, Jim Jack, Chris Rudolph and John Brenan, were killed through a combination of blunt force trauma and asphyxia.
The avalanche attracted a high level of media attention because of the high level of experience and notoriety of all sixteen skiers and snowboarders on the trip. Participants included professional competitive skiers and members of the freeskiing media, including reporters and a photographer from Powder Magazine. In December 2012, the New York Times published an interactive multimedia feature piece called "Snow Fall" that was critically acclaimed, including winning the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.
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