Buried: The 1982 Alpine Meadows Avalanche
In the early 1980’s, the Alpine Meadows Ski Patrol were the undisputed gods of winter in the mountain hamlet of Lake Tahoe, California, a sun-drenched wonderland of endless powder and parties. This sundry crew full of youthful hubris and a zest for explosives were guided by a newly minted avalanche forecaster named Jim Plehn. More thoughtful and strategic than the others, Jim was a stickler for safety and protocol; he had to be at this avalanche-prone resort. The responsibility to keep the skiing public safe was an all-consuming obsession of the patrol crew, which made the day of March 31, 1982 all the more devastating. With the mountain closed due to high avalanche danger, an avalanche of unforeseeable magnitude broke free. Millions of pounds of snow hurtled down the side of the mountain demolishing the resort’s base area and burying the parking lot. The wreckage was unimaginable and for the shell-shocked patrol team there was no time to dwell, eight missing victims were buried in the slide - co-workers, friends, family - and every passing second was precious. Over the next five days, through an unrelenting storm and unimaginable tragedy, the rescue team persevered. Innocence was lost, mortality faced, Mother Nature reckoned with, but through it all they never gave up hope for a miracle.