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Survivor of deadly Washington avalanche: It was like a 'washing machine'

Three skiers were killed in Washington after an avalanche swept them about 2,000 feet. Elyse Saugstad, a professional skier who survived the incident, says she's "absolutely devastated" over the loss of her friends. NBC's Kristen Dahlgren reports.

Updated at 8:35 a.m. ET: SEATTLE – Three men died in an avalanche in an out-of-bounds area near a popular Washington state ski resort on Sunday, authorities said. Several other skiers who had initially been reported missing were later accounted for. 

Sgt. Cindi West of the King County Sheriff's Office confirmed the deaths of three people to msnbc.com. The skiers were believed to be aged in their 30s and 40s.

The tragedy occurred at Stevens Pass ski resort in the Cascade Mountains, about 13 miles east of the town of Skykomish.


Other skiers in the group managed to dig out the men and performed CPR. However, they were later declared dead.

NBC News reported Monday that they had been swept about 2,000 feet down the slope.

According to King5.com, one skier was wearing a safety device if swept up in an avalanche. Elyse Saugstad, a professional skier, survived.

'Flipped and tumbled'
Saugstad told NBC's TODAY that she felt like she was in a "washing machine and being flipped and tumbled" after activating the device and being carried downhill.

"There wasn’t much sound," Saugstad said. "It literally was just trying to figure out within seconds of what exactly was happening and how I was going to deal with this. It was a very long ride and there was a lot of time to think."

Saugstad told TODAY that the avalanche danger wasn't high when the group went out Sunday. She said they were all "experienced back-country skiers."

"I’m just still in shock," she added. "I’m absolutely devastated at the loss of my friends."

Saugstad said that she "will definitely ski again."

In a separate incident in the Cascades on Sunday, a snowboarder died after plunging off a cliff, West said. According to the Seattle Times, the snowboarder, age 41, triggered an avalanche that pushed him over a cliff.

The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center on Sunday issued a warning for high avalanche danger for areas above 5,000 feet. The elevation of the avalanche wasn't immediately clear.

At mid-afternoon, the temperate at the base of the ski resort was 24 degrees, with light winds and good visibility. The temperature at the top of the mountain was 22 degrees, according to the resort's website.

The site also said Sunday was a "popular powder day" at the resort, with 14 inches of fresh snow falling overnight.

Stevens Pass, an 80-mile drive from Seattle, is among the most popular outdoor recreation areas in the state. People flock there to go cross-country, back-country and downhill skiing, as well as snowshoeing and backpacking.

It's been a deadly winter in Washington state's mountains. Four people disappeared in vicious storms while hiking and climbing on Mount Rainier last month.

Across the West, there had been 13 avalanche deaths this season as of Feb. 16, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, which tracks avalanche deaths in the U.S.

Avalanche deaths are more common in the backcountry than at ski resorts. Out of about 900 avalanche deaths nationwide since the 1950-1951 winter, 32 were within terrain that was open for riding at ski resorts, according to the Utah Avalanche Center.

The Associated Press, msnbc.com staff and NBC News contributed to this report.

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