The Most Popular Avalanche in America

On February 19 of this year, there was an avalanche in the Tunnel Creek drainage area of Washington's Stevens Pass ski area. Three skiers were killed. Tragic, but not extraordinary: over the past decade, an average of 25 people per year have been killed in the US in avalanches. In 2011, the death count was 34.

In November, Outside magazine ran a 4,000+ word story by Megan Michelson about the Tunnel Creek avalanche. The story was exhaustive. They had a good reason: Michelson, a skier and journalist, was there. She was skiing with the group that was caught in the avalanche. She watched from atop the ski run as her compatriots were buried. She helped with the rescue efforts. Her story told the tale from as close a perspective as possible.

And now, the New York Times is rolling out an absolutely huge multimedia story package—six parts, interactive graphics and videos, and word count that will run to the tens of thousands—about an avalanche. An avalanche in 2012. The Tunnel Creek avalanche. The same avalanche. The most intensively covered avalanche in the modern history of journalism, for some reason.

The next person who writes about this avalanche will be forced to write an entire book.

[The NYT's thing does look nice. Photo: Derek Purdy/ Flickr]