Avalanche Swept Expert Skiers Thousands of Feet Group had moved outside resort's boundaries By Matt Cantor, Newser User Posted Feb 20, 2012 6:40 AM CST 0 comments Comments An image of Stevens Pass from the resort's website. (Stevenspass.com) (Newser) – The three skiers killed in a Washington state avalanche yesterday were highly experienced—and equipped with protective gear. Thirteen friends, including an ESPN editor, had traveled to a popular route that fell outside the boundaries of the nearby Stevens Pass ski resort. Most of the group was at the top of the route, with four others some 300 feet below, when the avalanche—initially 30 feet wide and 3 feet deep—began; it was reportedly set off by one of the skiers who was killed. Leavenworth, Wash., residents Jim Jack, head judge of the Freeskiing World Tour; Stevens Pass marketing boss Chris Rudolph; and friend John Brenan were killed in the avalanche after being carried a distance their friends estimate at 2,000 to 3,000 vertical feet; a sheriff said it was closer to 1,500. Professional skier Elyse Saugstad was also caught in the avalanche but says her life was saved by an airbag in her backpack that she was able to deploy. Everyone in the group was at least partially buried in snow; those who escaped hurried to help their friends but were too late, the AP reports.