Buried – The 1982 Alpine Meadows Avalanche – A Review

Buried – The 1982 Alpine Meadows Avalanche is a documentary film from 2021 that tells the story of a massive avalanche. You can now watch this movie on various streaming services including Netflix.

Throughout history the mountains have had various meanings. In the Middle Ages, mountains were thought to be places where evil lurked and venturing  into the mountains was a deal with the devil.  Mountains were dark, mysterous places where ungodly people hid out.  Since the sixteenth century, mountains have taken on a more sacred place in the Western imagination.  By the nineteenth century, mountains were seen as a place to regain health and vigor. Fresh air. Clean water.  A place to get away from the foul industrial urban centers. Even the tragic story of the Donner Party in 1847, a few miles from Alpine Meadows, did not slow this new sense of the healthful sacredness of the mountains. In many ways, this notion of the mountains being healthy and even sacred lives on today. To this end, there are hundreds of ski resorts high in the mountains of the American West, one of which is Alpine Meadows (now Palisades). Life is short. Drop a few thousand dollars for a weekend. Regain your health and even get a bit closer to God.

The people who live up in ski resorts are a fun-loving bunch.  Few who live in the mountains are there for the money. Some enjoy the solitude and quiet. Some the never ending thrills of deep power snow. Some live for the scenic beauty. Other are there to escape something and get a new start. Some are there to endlessly party. Whatever the case, it a place where people’s main motivation is to live in the moment.

Buried – The 1982 Alpine Meadows Avalanche tells that story of people living in the moment.  It is a remarkable movie as the filmmakers somehow gathered one by one all the major people that were part of this event and had them candidly talk about the winter of 1982.  The combination of these interviews, along with footage from the time, including local news reports tells the story in a very even, engaging way. You even get to watch San Francisco’s Channel 2 reporters, Dennis Richmond and Elaine Corral report on the tragic event – a time when the 6 o’clock news was the news.

This view into a time before the personal computer, cellphones and the internet is part of what makes the movie so intriguing.  The ski patrol had only  walkie-talkies and snowmobiles. Weather reports came over the weather radio.  The young avalanche forecaster Jim Plehn used a system of large paper charts to map the snow densities and where they had used explosives or side-cut skiing to create avalanches. To this day, it is an inexact science that in the end requires more than paper, computer models and theories, but all your senses, experience and instinct.

As the film unfolds, the movie does an excellent job of telling the story of the avalanche and then for the rest of the movie the digging out of bodies and the hope for any survivors.  Volunteers with shovels. A few specially trained avalanche dogs. All the while it is continuing to snow and the people in charge have no way of knowing if there will be another massive slide. The majority of the people dealing with this tragic event, the ski patrol were all people in their late twenties. Making critical life and death decisions at a very young age. Even in the hedonistic mountains, people grew up pretty fast back then.

Buried – The 1982 Alpine Meadows Avalanche is an important film telling an  important story that is critical part of the history of the American West. Watch it with a bowl of fresh popcorn and a cool beverage of your choice.

Well done. 5 stars.


2022 – Happy New Year

Serene Lakes at Soda Spring

Much to be thankful for in this New Year and much to be wary about.  Let’s start with the thankful. Snow in the Sierra! Below is an after (Jan 4) and before (Nov 28) satellite photo of snow around Lake Tahoe.

That is a lot of snow! For December, 2021 in California it is officially 210 inches give or take a few feet and plus or minus 80 inches if the plows came by.

Playing in the Snow

I grew up in snow. I love snow. I even enjoy shoveling snow. Thanks to some gracious friends we were able to get up to Donner Pass the last week of December 2021. Below are some photos.

Thus concludes the pleasant part of this post.

Treachery and the Great Downfall of American Democracy

Treachery and greed is the way these days. The slow, methodical deterioration of American democracy. The coup attempts. The regrouping of white nationalists. Henchmen running free, disobeying court summons at the highest level of government. Many people would assert that the whole system was rigged from the beginning – the racist concept of the electoral college, the overwhelming influence of the rich, corporations and big money, the federal reserve. The travails are many, but at least in an earlier time period the notion of decency was a virtue.  The truth mattered.

This trend towards fascism has been written about by many of the major mainstream progressive magazines. The Atlantic started having pieces about this six months ago and recently has devoted an entire issue to it.


The Crystal Ball

I see the 2022 and 2024 elections down the road like a car wreck in slow motion. It is night. A car is parked on a hill without the emergency brake on.  All is well until a storm blows in and a breeze picks up in the middle of the night. The sky turns dark. The carload  of Treachery and Greed slowly begins to move, inch by inch, making it’s way gradually faster and faster, down the hill.  We all look on in disbelief. At the bottom sit the Statue of Liberty, the Lincoln Monument, the Capital buildings of Wisconsin and Georgia all gazing innocently off into space. With a loud crash the out of control car knocks over every one.  I wake up.  It’s 2022 my friend. Be well and Happy New Year!

The San Francisco Quarterly Report – March 2019


Since the last report there has been extreme weather. Late in 2018 a fire season began that was massive. Whole neighborhoods in Santa Rosa burned to the ground. The city of Paradise in the Sierra foothills burned to the ground. There were massive fires in southern California and all up and down the coast. In San Francisco the smoke was so thick you had to wear a mask to breath outside. From San Francisco, Oakland was not visible.

Then on Thanksgiving Day the rains came and it was a gift from the heavens. Since then the rain and storm dump on the Sierra. Snow-pack is at 150% of normal. For people who like to hike up to the tops of mountains and ski down – that activity will be available until the end of June. We are just now beginning to dry out.


Governor Jerry Brown has retired and been replaced with the former mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom. Jerry Brown has been a great public servant, and we will miss his generally good judgement, candid sense of humor, honesty and fiscal skills – why Republicans get the moniker of being fiscal conservatives when they always drive federal and state governments in to debt is strange.  Jerry leaves Governor with money in the bank. We know that with Gavin, at least we now have a Governor with way better hair but certainly less brains. Let us pray that Gavin uses good judgement. We know he has no sense of humor.

Sporting News

I do not pay attention of professional sports so this is about the local sports. The skiing is fantastic, there is plenty of snow. Biking is off the charts when you can hit a clear day after a rain, 50 degree weather. Great light.  Light winds. The surfing is off the charts with many head-high and overhead days with off-shore winds and long period swells.

Surf in Norther California – 2019

San Francisco Construction Boom

A few photos of San Francisco and the changing skyline. Building all over town is extensive. The new Warriors stadium is looking like it is on schedule. Warehouses are being torn down. Condos are being built in record time.

Below are the new buildings around 3rd Street. The Warriors new stadium is almost done. UCSF has an entire campus. Kaiser and a lot of medical, pharmaceutical and biotech companies abound. Not a single corner store anywhere in sight but massive concrete parking garages for all the wealthy professionals driving in from Marin and Walnut Creek.

Skiing on June 15th in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

I have always wanted to ski late in the year during a big snow year. 2017 was that year. It is a truly amazing experience to hike up and ski off the top of a mountain in 70 degree weather. The sun bright and hot. The snow hard but not yet slushy in the morning.

We made our way up to the top of this undisclosed mountain along the Pacific Crest Trail. A mile in we ran into a group of six hikers with packs. As usual custom along hiking trails we stopped and drank some water and chatted a bit. These were six people hiking the PCT all the way from Mexico to Canada. They had all started out doing the hike solo but formed a group over time. One person from Oregon. Another from Albuquerque. Another from Israel and another from New York. I asked them if they could let me know one of their most essential tools in their pack. Something they value most of all and could not do without. They first said what all people who backpack say. “Just too much shit. You do not need much in the end.”  Then they stood and pondered and then one of the older hikers said, “You pack your fears. If you are afraid of being thirsty, you carry too much water. If you fear hunger, you pack too much food. If you are afraid of being cold, you pack too many clothes.” Some heavy trail knowledge – just in the nick of time.

“You pack your fears. If you are afraid of being thirsty, you carry too much water. If you fear hunger, you pack too much food. If you are afraid of being cold, you pack too many clothes.”

Hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail

We kept heading up the mountain. At times using skins and skis. At other times hiking straight up. We made it to the top and ate lunch. The top of the mountain is a unusual place. Life was exploding with bugs, birds, rodents, birds and butterflies. 9100 feet. At one point  a tiger swallowtail butterfly cruises by and you have to wonder what she is doing at the top of the world.

Here are some photos from that magical day.