Alpine Meadows deadly avalanche documentary in theaters next month

TRUCKEE, Calif. — A documentary about the devastating avalanche at Alpine Meadows about 40 years ago will appear in theaters in September.

Lake Tahoe residents Jared Drake and Steven Siig are co-producers, writers and directors of the 96-minute film “Buried: The 1982 Alpine Meadows Avalanche.”

In the early 1980s, the Alpine Meadows Ski Patrol were the undisputed gods of winter in the mountain hamlet of Tahoe City, a sun-drenched wonderland of endless powder and parties, said a description previewing the movie. 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, Plehn 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 for him, which made the day of March 31, 1982, all the more devastating. 

With the mountain closed due to high avalanche danger, but a skeleton crew on hand, a slide of unforeseeable magnitude broke free. Millions of pounds of snow hurtled down the side of the mountain demolishing the resort’s base lodge and burying the parking lot. 

Buried flyer crop

The wreckage was unimaginable, a worst-case nightmare scenario, especially for Plehn. But for the shell-shocked patrol team, there was no time to dwell, seven missing victims were buried in the slide — coworkers, 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.

The documentary will be in selected theaters on Sept. 23, and on amazon and Apple TV on Nov. 8.   

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