In the five days leading up to the afternoon of March 31, 1982, snow had fallen constantly on the slopes above the Alpine Meadows ski resort near Lake Tahoe, California. Knowing that the risk of avalanche was very high, resort managers had closed the grounds, sent nonessential staff away, and assigned ski patrol crews to bring down controlled amounts of snow with explosives. By that afternoon many cars were completely hidden under snow and plows were failing to keep roads clear. Some guests were stranded in the resort condos, unable to leave the valley. While the staff was concerned about dangerous conditions, no one imagined that three slopes would give up their snow simultaneously, burying the resort headquarters. In A Wall of White: The True Story of Heroism and Survival in the Face of a Deadly Avalanche, Sports Illustrated journalist Jennifer Woodlief reports on a monster storm, tragic avalanche, and subsequent rescue efforts.
For a reader like me, who grew up where an inch or two of snow fell every five years, A Wall of White tells a pretty incredible story. Who could imagine that much snow? Over twelve feet in ten days! Woodlief explains the meteorological conditions, the dynamics of mountain snow, the methods of avalanche prevention, and the difficulties of rescuing people from the almost concrete formations formed after avalanches. She also profiles staff and guests of the resort and describes their movements on the day that the resort headquarters was destroyed.
A Wall of White will appeal to readers who enjoy a bit of science with a large dose of human drama. Libraries should add it to their disaster story collections.
Woodlief, Jennifer. A Wall of White: The True Story of Heroism and Survival in the Face of a Deadly Avalanche. Atria Books, 2009. ISBN 9781416546924