Santa Cruz Skier Survives Deadly Washington Avalanche With Airbag Backpack

SANTA CRUZ (KCBS) — A professional skier from Santa Cruz using a specialized safety backpack survived getting caught in an avalanche near Seattle that killed three other skiers.

Elyse Saugstad was in a group of back-country skiers near Stevens Pass in Washington when they were hit with an avalanche Sunday that swept them nearly a quarter mile down the canyon.

She was the only one in the group to have an avalanche airbag backpack which keeps the skier up towards the top of the snow while they tumble downward.

“I fully believe that my backpack saved my life,” she said.

KCBS’ Matt Bigler Reports:

“Once the first person came to rescue me and unburied me, others started to show up in the rescue search. We stared finding the other bodies immediately,” she said.

Saugstad told reporters she was shocked to find out that one of the victims was only three-feet to her left.

Saugstad is married to fellow pro skier and Santa Cruz native Cody Townsend who was not part of the fateful outing.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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