Three die in backcountry avalanche in Washington; pro skier Elyse Saugstad survives thanks to airbag

Elyse Saugstad

UPDATE: Watch video of Elyse Saugstad describing the moments after the avalanche happened. See it here. See what Saugstad has to say about the accident on her website.

ESPN is reporting that noted professional freeskier Elyse Saugstad deployed an airbag during an avalanche on Sunday that may well have saved her life in the incident that killed three other skiers in her party.

The avalanche near Stevens Pass ski area hit just after a group of 13 local and visiting skiers, including ESPN Freeskiing editor Megan Michelson, had begun to ski. Read more about the avalanche.

Saugstad’s survival while using the airbag will add to the discussion about how useful the device is in an avalanche. A recent story by Jason Blevins in the Denver Post discussed the rising use of the devices,  noting that by this fall “six different companies will be offering avalanche air-bag backpacks, up from one a few years ago.” While that appears to be a positive development, the story also notes that airbags are by no means a sure thing to ensure survival. Read more.

You can actually see how the airbag works in this remarkable video (see it below as well) of one being deployed in the Snake River Basin above Montezuma, Colo.  Or read about how this snowmobiler survived using one near Empire, Colo.

Want to learn what makes Saugstad tick? Here’s where to find a video of her skiing and an insightful interview with Outside Magazine.

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