Avalanche Survivor: Like Being Trapped in Washing Machine

'I thought this was my end,' says Elyse Saugstad
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 21, 2012 12:14 AM CST
Updated Feb 21, 2012 1:32 AM CST
Avalanche Survivor: Like Being Trapped in Washing Machine
Elyse Saugstad poses on a snow-covered mountain in Chile. She survived an avalanche in Washington.   (Facebook)

(Newser) – The survivor of a deadly Washington avalanche recalled the horror of being tossed in roiling snow as if she was trapped in a washing machine. "We didn't really hear anything, then my partner started screaming, 'Elyse, avalanche!' It happened so quickly," professional skier Elyse Saugstad tells CBS News. "My first thought was it isn't that big. Within a second it immediately became much more. It feels like you're in a washing machine, and being tossed and turned, and it's all white and you don't know which way is up and down." She was swept some 2,000 feet in 30 seconds.

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"I definitely had the fear that this could be the way I ended," she said. Saugstad credits innovative air bags in her backpack with saving her life. The instant she was hit by the snow, she deployed the bags, which kept her head up near the surface, even though her feet felt as if they were encased "in cement' when the avalanche stopped. She was immediately dug out by others, but discovered a friend was already dead just three feet away from her. Two others were also killed among the group of 13 friends, all expert skiers, who were carving the back country of the Stevens Pass ski area. (Read more avalanche stories.)

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