Deadly Tahoe avalanche documentary to hit theaters this fall

Miranda Jacobson

Tragedy struck Alpine Meadows almost 40 years ago when a 3,200-foot deadly avalanche swept through the resort killing several people.

Now, director and producers Jared Drake and Steven Siig are ready to help the survivors and community tell their story in their upcoming documentary Buried: The 1982 Alpine Meadows Avalanche. The film, which recently won the Mountainfilm 2021 Audience Choice Award, will be released in theaters in September 2021.

Drake moved to Alpine Meadows with his wife seven years ago, and began researching the avalanche not too long after.

“One of our neighbors knocked on our door at one point and was like, ‘You guys moved to Alpine, you gotta familiarize yourself with this story and this event and what this place is.'”

The story follows the local community and patrollers who fell victim to the disastrous avalanche in 1982. Provided Lanny Johnson

The “A” level avalanche area annually records the largest number of avalanches of any ski resort in the United States.

On March 27, 1982, a storm began in the Alpine Meadows that fell on an already 87-inch base. By March 30, Alpine was closed to the public. On March 31, the avalanche swept across the ski area, taking the lives of seven people, and leaving five others to live with the memory forever. One survivor, Anna Conrad, was found by the local search party after five days. She was trapped beneath a wall and bench that created an air pocket, leaving her enough air to survive.

“We tell the story of the patrol and what they faced as the storm hit and the decisions that they faced as the storm rolled in,” Drake said. “We capture the spirit of the very tight knit family and a very unique group of patrollers here in Alpine, that were a combination of thrill seekers and climbers looking for a home in the mountains in the winter where they could go throw bombs and connect.”

The event changed the lives of everyone in the community forever.

“Throughout the years, one question we always asked ourselves was, ‘What is different about making this movie now 39 years after the fact versus making it in 1982, right after it happened?'” Drake said. “And it’s the time that all of them have had to live with the event and how they’ve overcome it, or how they’ve faced it, because it was a very traumatic event. And there’s real strength in how our subjects, who, when you talk to them, when you interview them and you’ve seen them in the film, they talk about the event like it was yesterday.”

Drake explained that the movie was not only an important way for the community to tell their story, but for the future of snow and avalanche safety. Starting later this winter, Drake said the movie’s team will go on a road tour to mountain towns around the country to do screening of the movie and host panels to talk about the importance of avalanche safety in snow towns.

The documentary hears the story of the avalanche from the perspective of the patrol team, the survivors, and the victims’ families. It’s set to release in theaters September 2021. Provided Lanny Johnson

To help fund this tour, the Buried team has created a GoFundMe page. All donations will go to helping them get on the road.

“The money raised through that is going to go directly to the roadshow tour, which is really important to us,” Drake said. “And I think it’s really important to the avalanche community and everything that this film is hoping to accomplish, which is to raise awareness for avalanche safety and keep that conversation really going.”

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