Avalanche Claims 3 at Stevens Pass

Three skiers died in an out-of-bounds avalanche on the back side of Stevens Pass Sunday, including Stevens Pass marketing director Chris Rudolph. The others were professional freestyle skiing judge Jim Jack and local John Brenan. A fourth person caught in the slide, pro skier Elyse Saugstad, deployed an air bag from her backpack and survived the ordeal.

Rudolph, barely into his 30s, was an up-and-coming leader in the industry. He had earned several marketing awards and accolades and was named to the SAM “Top 20 Under 30” last July. His six-word memoir captured his relationship with the high country: “Wandering amongst mountains, stumbled upon purpose.”

The four were part of a larger group of 13 experienced backcountry skiers that was descending the Tunnel Creek drainage on a popular backcountry route outside the resort boundary. The descent is a 10-minute hike from the resort’s summit. The party of 13 was skiing in three groups, and descending the slope in sections. The group was equipped with avalanche beacons and other avalanche gear.

The avalanche occurred at about noon, and was accidentally triggered by one of the skiers in the group. Rudolph, Jack, Brenan and Saugstad were swept by snow and debris 1,500 feet down the mountain.

Using their beacons, the rest of the party found Saugstad, whose head and hands were above the snow, in about 10 minutes. Two of the others were found within 50 feet of her, a third further down the slope. But none of the three could be resuscitated. We extend our deepest sympathies to all the affected families and friends.