Sole survivor of deadly 1982 Alpine Meadows avalanche recalls hope while waiting 5 days for rescue

More than 40 years after surviving a deadly California avalanche, the sole survivor recalled waiting in total isolation for five days before her rescue, but Anna Conrad Allen said she always knew help was coming.

Allen, then 22 years old, was buried by the March 31, 1982, Alpine Meadows avalanche near Lake Tahoe in an area now part of the Palisades Tahoe Ski resort. This year, another deadly avalanche took the life of a skier just 30 minutes after Palisades Tahoe opened for the day on Jan. 10.

"Buried," a documentary film directed by Tahoe locals Jared Drake and Steven Siig chronicles the 1982 avalanche, one of the deadliest in California and U.S. history.

The avalanche followed a blizzard that blasted the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range for four straight days, dumping eight feet of snow. After the late-season snowstorm, the resort was closed on the avalanche day, likely saving lives.

Seven people were killed in the avalanche, including four ski resort employees. Buried beneath the snow was 22-year-old ski lift operator, Anna Conrad, the lone survivor.


Conrad was walking back to the locker room to meet her boyfriend when the avalanche buried the building with her in it. She doesn’t remember the initial avalanche because the blast knocked her unconscious. When she woke up, she knew she had a terrible concussion.

"I woke up probably the next day hearing the blast of the avalanche mitigation that was taking place and trying to figure out where I was," she told FOX Weather. "My head was pounding. So the idea was really to just see if I could figure out a way to get out of where I was."

It turned out that freeing herself was not possible. The avalanche happened on a Wednesday, and days later, Conrad could hear the search teams calling her name, which gave her hope.

Another 4 feet of snow that fell after the avalanche hampered the search and rescue efforts.


"All I really saw was the snow falling above my head, and that's what I grabbed at, and they saw my hand reaching for the snow," she remembered. "They called my name, a sound that was wonderful."

Conrad suffered hypothermia, severe frostbite and dehydration. After waiting five days for her rescue, she lost part of her right leg and left foot.

Throughout the terrifying ordeal, Conrad said she always had faith that the searchers would find her because she "always believed in the system of search and rescue."

Even after surviving the slide and undergoing multiple surgeries, Conrad continues to ski to this day.

"One of my biggest goals was never to make this incident my whole life. This wasn't going to define me," she said. "I wanted to make sure that I survived the avalanche fully, not just partially."

Original article source: Sole survivor of deadly 1982 Alpine Meadows avalanche recalls hope while waiting 5 days for rescue