Avalanche Survivor Relives Experience Trapped in the Snow for Five Days

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MAMMOTH — Headlines from 35 years ago.

The dead, the missing, the search for survivors.

They are a glimpse into the fear and devastation caused by an avalanche in the Sierra.

But then there was a miracle.

March 31, 1982, it was a stormy afternoon at Alpine Meadows.

Anna Allen, who at the time went by her maiden name Conrad, and her boyfriend stood in the locker room at the ski resort near the Summit Chair when a massive wall of snow came crashing down.

“The next thing I remember is waking up inside the debris of the building,” Allen said.

Buried alive under a mound of debris and snow, alone.

Anna had no idea she was trapped in an avalanche.

Stuck in a hole five feet long, two feet high and three feet wide.

It was a physical and emotional fight for her life.

“Every day it was thinking about my family, my friends, my boyfriend. Fortunately, I didn’t remember that he was actually with me,” Allen said.

The avalanche killed Anna’s boyfriend Frank and six others.

But she never lost her will to survive.

“Why wouldn’t you? You wanna keep living, it’s never an option to just give up,” said Allen.

Anna still remembers hearing searchers call her name and every time, she desperately yelled for help.

They couldn’t hear her.

But knowing people were out there looking gave her strength and hope.

“You have to have faith in people and believe in everybody. You don’t have control over everything that’s happening,” Allen said.

After five days, rescuers found her.

“I hear the voice ‘Anna is that you?’ And my response was of course it is! Who else were they supposed to be looking for!” said Allen.

Anna was delirious and sick, but alive and incredibly lucky.

The rate of survival for people caught in avalanches is slim.

According to research from the Westwide Avalanche Center, after 35 minutes there’s a 30 percent chance of survival.

After an hour and a half the odds of living are 27 percent.

After just over two hours it’s 3 percent.

At that point, a person will likely die due to lack of oxygen or hypothermia, unless there’s an air pocket.

And that’s what saved Anna’s life.

Frostbite took her right leg from the knee down and all the toes on her left foot.

But she doesn’t want pity.

“That’s nothing compared to so many people that have gone through so much worse in other situations,” Allen said.

Despite her terrifying experience, Anna spends her days near the slopes.

She works at Mammoth Ski Resort and has for the past 31 years.

Her survival story is woven into who she is today.

“It’s not about what you had happen to you, it’s about what you can continue to do and move forward with,” said Allen.

Faith strengthened by that miracle in the Sierra.

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