Three of about a dozen experienced skiers were killed Sunday afternoon after an avalanche hit them in a backcountry area near a ski resort in Washington.
The three men who died were swept about a quarter-mile down a canyon near the Stevens Pass ski resort in the Cascade Mountains of north-central Washington, The Associated Press reported. A fourth skier, caught up in the slide, was rescued by a safety device.
Those who were not buried deep into the snow tried to save the victims but could not succeed despite performing CPR. The avalanche occurred at about 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
"Most of the people involved in this were well-known to the ski community up here, especially to the ski patrol," Deputy Chris Bedker of the King County Sheriff's search-and-rescue unit was quoted as saying. "It was their friends who they recovered."
The victims were identified as Freeskiing World Tour head judge Jim Jack, Stevens Pass Director of Marketing Chris Rudolph and skier John Brenan, all residents of Leavenworth, Wash. They tumbled about 1,500 feet down a chute in the Tunnel Creek Canyon area, according to King County Sheriff's Sgt. Katie Larson.
According to ESPN.com, the survivor, Elyse Saugstad, was a professional skier who used an airbag after the avalanche hit. "I was completely buried except for my head and hands," she was quoted as saying. The sports network's Freeskiing editor, Megan Michelson, was among the skiers but escaped unhurt.
In a separate accident, a snowboarder in his 20s also died Sunday at the Alpental ski area east of Seattle after an avalanche took him over a cliff.
The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center issued a warning Sunday for high avalanche danger for areas above 5,000 feet. According to experts, the risk of additional slides in the region could remain high all season.