Brand-New Documentary Tells the Story of the Deadly 1982 Alpine Meadows Avalanche

On March 31, 1982, a large avalanche hit Alpine Meadows, burying the main lodge and parking lot in 20 feet of snow and killing 7 people. The tragedy is a story that pervades the mind of every local, especially those that live in near the North Lake Tahoe community. Now, nearly 40 years after the avalanche, a new documentary is telling the story of survival and tragedy on Alpine Meadows.

Buried, created by filmmakers Jared Drake & Steven Siig, tells the harrowing story of the avalanche, including exclusive interviews with people who experienced the event. The film has already received plenty of accolades, winning the audience choice award at Telluride’s Mountainfilm, the jury award at the Austin Film Festival and best documentary at the Bend Film Festival. The film has also been selected to play at film festivals in Banff, Whistler, Boulder, Lake Placid and Newport Beach.

The film is currently being screened at Art Haus in Tahoe City until December 15 (tickets here). The film’s full release is scheduled for 2022. Here is a description of the film from the filmmakers:

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.

See an interview with Jared Drake & Steven Siig on why they made the film:

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