The New York Times has a six-part multimedia presentation detailing the story of 16 skiers and snowboarders who were caught in an avalanche last February in the Cascade Mountains. The series includes awesome graphics, slideshows, videos, and a compelling narrative by John Branch that follows the events from the point of view of the survivors and rescuers. Not everyone survived. The story opens with professional skier Elyse Saugstad.
She had no control of her body as she tumbled downhill. She did not know up from down. It was not unlike being cartwheeled in a relentlessly crashing wave. But snow does not recede. It swallows its victims. It does not spit them out.
Snow filled her mouth. She caromed off things she never saw, tumbling through a cluttered canyon like a steel marble falling through pins in a pachinko machine.
At first she thought she would be embarrassed that she had deployed her air bag, that the other expert skiers she was with, more than a dozen of them, would have a good laugh at her panicked overreaction. Seconds later, tumbling uncontrollably inside a ribbon of speeding snow, she was sure this was how she was going to die.
(Image credit: Washington State Department of Transportation)