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Avalanche buries skier under feet of snow -- but she's rescued

A woman buried by an avalanche Tuesday spent at least 10 minutes under a couple of feet of snow until the ski patrol raced to the scene at Washington state's Crystal Mountain and freed her.

Members of the rescue team and an avalanche rescue dog named Newman rushed to the area where the woman had last been spotted by the two men who were skiing alongside her. Using long metal probes, the rescuers searched in the snow, ski patrol director Paul Baugher told NBC affiliate KING5.

“They felt something fairly quickly, they dug down to investigate, they found a hand,” he said.

The woman was quickly dug out, conscious and breathing. She had been buried for at least 10 minutes, Baugher said. 

"She was fine," he said.

Baugher told NBC affiliate KING5 the avalanche took place just after 2 p.m., and the three skiers were caught in the middle of it in a steep area of the slope.

The two men were able to dig themselves out, but the woman was buried under the powder. Baugher told The Associated Press that a ski patrol member reached the area within five minutes after the emergency call came in. Personnel had recently completed avalanche control work nearby, he said.

“There’s always luck,” Baugher told the newspaper. “But when a good outcome comes, we make a lot of that. The skiers helped make some of their own luck.”

A big storm dumped more than 40 inches of snow on Crystal this week and triggered strong winds, increasing the risk for the formation of avalanches.

Crystal Mountain is on the northeast corner of Mount Rainier National Park in Washington’s Cascade Mountains.

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