Detailed Accident Report
Submitted By: NWAC
Place: Snoqualmie Pass?CLOSED Ski Area
Summary: 2 skiers caught, 1 partially buried, 1 buried and killed
Prepared by: Garth Ferber, Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center
Place: Snoqualmie Pass?Alpental Ski Area(CLOSED)
Summary: A pair of back country skiers toured on skins from the base
of the Alpental ski area up a run known as Lower International midday
on 12 January 2005. The ski area had not been in operation so far this
season and therefore conditions were similar to back country
conditions. The two apparently switched backed up the northeast facing
slope on which the avalanche occurred to about 4400 feet and stopped
where one of the skiers removed his skis in the early afternoon.
Apparently while stomping out a platform or short trail on the 40
degree slope immediately below some cliffs he triggered a generally 1
foot deep by about 220 foot wide soft slab avalanche.
Both of the men were caught; the one without his skis on ended up
partly buried and the other completely buried. The avalanche ran about
400 vertical feet. Apparently the avalanche was witnessed by 2 other
nearby skiers. One of these skiers went to the base of the ski area
for help. The partly buried man dug himself out and with the
assistance of the other nearby skier located the victim using
transceivers. The buried victim was apparently buried prone about 4
feet below the surface and dug out within about an estimated 10-15
minutes. Ski patrol assistance arrived at about the same time and CPR
measures were administered for about an hour. The victim was then
transported by helicopter to Seattle but never revived.
Weather conditions that likely contributed to the avalanche were
strong west winds and new relatively warm dense snow that day,
accumulating over colder lower density snow and buried hoar frost
layers, in turn over a firm layer of snow from December which provided
a bed surface for the avalanche. Skiers earlier that day noted signs
of instability such as triggered settling of the snowpack and
propagating cracks in the snow which was reported on a web site on the
This is a preliminary report subject to change.
Alpental avalanche kills one man, injures another
By JESSICA BLANCHARD
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
One man died and another was injured after being buried in a small
avalanche at Snoqualmie Pass yesterday.
The two men had apparently converted their alpine skis to Nordic skis
and climbed a steep, rugged section of the Alpental Ski Area that had
been closed for lack of snow, said Jon Pretty, Summit at Snoqualmie
They were resting shortly after noon near the avalanche-prone
International Cliffs when a roughly 100-foot section of snow sloughed
off, carrying them partway down the mountain, he said.
One of the skiers was only partially buried and was able to pull
himself out of the snow and start trying to find his companion, Pretty
said, but the other man was completely buried.
Two other men who had been skiing nearby came to help. One began
searching for the buried skier while the other traveled down to alert
Alpental Ski Patrol, Pretty said.
By the time rescuers arrived about a half-hour later, the two men had
managed to pull the skier from the snow, but he was unconscious.
Rescue crews' attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. He was
airlifted to Harborview Medical Center, where he died later that
afternoon. He was 28.
The King County Medical Examiner's Office has not released his name,
pending notification of relatives.
Though avalanches are not uncommon at Snoqualmie Pass, deaths from
them are rare.
In the past decade, only one other person has died in an avalanche
there -- a snowshoer who was buried while hiking near a creek across
from the Alpental area in December 2003, Pretty said.
The Alpental area contains some of the mountain's most challenging ski
runs, and even the most experienced skiers are warned to take
precautions such as carrying shovels and wearing avalanche beacons.
Both of the men were wearing beacons, which sped up efforts to rescue
them, Pretty said.
Although the men had ventured into a section of the mountain that was
closed to skiers, Summit at Snoqualmie staff have no plans to pursue
penalties against the skier who survived, Pretty said.
Until the Alpental Ski Area receives more snow, it will remain closed,
A lack of snow caused late starts to ski seasons at several regional
resorts this year, and some that have opened are only offering limited
access to their slopes. But recent storms have helped build up snow
bases, and another storm was expected to deliver between 4 and 8
inches of snow on the west slopes of the Cascades by this morning,
according to the National Weather Service.
P-I reporter Jessica Blanchard can be reached at 206-448-8322 or