An avalanche in Wolverine Bowl set off by a ski patrol bomb. Photo courtesy of Jim Plehn.
On March 31, 1982, a massive avalanche tumbled down California’s Alpine Meadows, killing seven people in the most devastating slide ever to hit a ski resort. Why nobody has written a book about this until now is a mystery to us. But when California-based writer Jennifer Woodlief—a former lawyer, Sports Illustrated reporter, and author of a biography of skier Bill Johnson—stumbled across the now 28-year-old story, the book deal was inevitable. A Wall of White: The True Story of Heroism and Survival in the Face of a Deadly Avalanche, comes out in paperback this February.
The story, much like the avalanche it documents, starts out slow, adding layers and building momentum. And then, suddenly, it comes crashing down. What Twilight novels are to teenage girls, A Wall of White is to skiers: an engaging tale with a heroic, made-for-Hollywood ending. (Woodlief is currently in negotiations to sell the story to a film studio.) It wasn’t all tragedy: A woman named Anna Conrad was rescued after spending five days buried in a building collapsed by the avalanche. To report the story, Woodlief conducted extensive interviews with the victims’ families, the rescuers, and the lone survivor. “The hardest part of it all,” Woodlief says, “was the initial reluctance of people to talk to me this long after the incident. I had to persuade them that I wasn’t going to exploit them or sensationalize what happened to them.” Sure, the cover and title are a bit dramatic, but the story inside is a painstakingly researched tale that’s been waiting to be told for nearly 30 years. [$25; awallofwhite.com]
Click to the next slide for an interview with Woodlief and Conrad...