Mountainfilm: “Buried,” A World Premiere!

Mountainfilm: “Buried,” A World Premiere!

Thanks to a brand new public health order out of San Miguel County Mountainfilm is able to nix capacity restrictions at free outdoor venues and add more seating.

 Reserve tickets now.

Among the featured films chosen by Festival Director (and filmmaker) Suzan Beraza and her team is “Buried,” a world premiere directed by Jared Drake and Steven Siig about a disaster that triggered innovation in avalanche control.

Scroll down to listen to a podcast featuring Jared and Siig.

Heavy snow in the mountains? Generally speaking manna for ski resorts. But, at times, just too much of a good thing.

Times when Mother Nature goes dark.

It was too much of a good thing in 2013 near Loveland in the Sheep Creek Drainage. Five experienced skiers died in that avalanche.

The Twin Lakes disaster occurred in 1962, when an avalanche totaled four homes and trapped nine people, killing seven.

Closer to home in Telluride, Christmas, December 23, 1883, an avalanche swept away most of the structures at the Mendota Mine, killing eight men about to head out to work. In 1902, the so-called Liberty Bell Disaster was a series of three avalanches which took the lives of 24 men, miners and would-be rescuers alike.

The town of Alpine Meadows in the Tahoe area annually records the largest number of avalanches of any ski resort in the United States – but few are like the epic disaster of the 1982 ski season.

According to one report:

“The spring storms of 1982 produced some of the most extreme avalanche conditions anyone can remember. Squaw Valley homes near Sandy Way were ripped apart by avalanches. Donner Lake homes were hit by a slide. Highway 89 closed…

“But those events are all lost to memory, overpowered by the gargantuan snow slide that peeled off a ridge at the northern edge of Alpine Meadows nearly 40 years ago, on March 31, 1982, tossing cars and shredding buildings in front of it.”

Jim Plehn. In 1982 he was a newbie avalanche forecaster. Today a Talking Head in “Buried.”

That morning in the Sierras broke cold and windy. A young but dedicated avalanche forecaster named Jim Plehn recalled the day, (paraphrasing): “You could hear the wind howling. There was a tinkling sound to the snow. It was alive. Felt like standing on top of a monster.”

The slide dropped more than 700 vertical feet according to a weather forecaster at Alpine Meadows, a resort employee at the time. The fracture line extended over a quarter-mile.

According to The Avalanche Review, March 1992:

“The avalanche, releasing from the Buttress, Pond and Poma Rocks slide paths, swept down into the base area and parking lot of the ski area. The avalanche hit the Summit Chairlift Terminal building, the main ski lodge, several small buildings, and two chairlifts. It buried the parking lot under 10 to 20 feet of snow. The Summit Terminal Building, which housed the ski patrol, avalanche control headquarters, lift operations, ski school and the main avalanche rescue cache, was completely destroyed. The day lodge sustained superficial damage, the two chairlifts were extensively damaged, and several small buildings were destroyed, as were several over-the-snow vehicles.

“Of the seven people in the Summit Building at the time of the avalanche, three were killed. Three were recovered alive almost immediately, and one young woman was recovered alive after a five-day burial. Four people were buried in the parking lot and killed. Altogether 12 people and one dog were victims of the avalanche. Seven of those 12 were killed. The dog survived a one-day burial. Total monetary loss was approximately 1.6 million dollars.”

And so begins the story of “Buried,” a film directed by Jared Drake and Steven Siig, co-founders of Realization Films. They frame their documentary as follows:

A ski patroller, on duty in “Buried.”

“In the early 1980’s, the Alpine Meadows Ski Patrol were the undisputed gods of winter in the mountain hamlet of Lake Tahoe, California, a sun-drenched wonderland of endless powder and parties. This sundry crew full of youthful hubris and a zest for explosives were guided by a newly minted avalanche forecaster named Jim Plehn. More thoughtful and strategic than the others, Jim was a stickler for safety and protocol; he had to be at this avalanche-prone resort. The responsibility to keep the skiing public safe was an all-consuming obsession of the patrol crew, which made the day of March 31, 1982 all the more devastating.

“With the mountain closed due to high avalanche danger, an avalanche of unforeseeable magnitude broke free. Millions of pounds of snow hurtled down the side of the mountain demolishing the resort’s base area and burying the parking lot. The wreckage was unimaginable and for the shell-shocked patrol team there was no time to dwell, eight missing victims were buried in the slide – co-workers, friends, family – and every passing second was precious.

“Over the next five days, through an unrelenting storm and unimaginable tragedy, the rescue team persevered. Innocence was lost, mortality faced, Mother Nature reckoned with, but through it all they never gave up hope for a miracle.”

For more about their life, work and “Buried” listen to this podcast featuring Jared and Siig.


After placing third in the PAC-10 for pole vault (UCLA), Jared spent the rest of his 20s in the film industry as a writer, director, and editor on a wide range of projects: narrative, branded, long form, short form, some funny, some sad. The Hollywood Reporter called Jared’s directorial debut film “Visioneers” (Zach Galifianakis) “an assured first feature.”

Jared parlayed his passion for helping writers tell their stories into Wildbound Literary PR, a boutique firm he started with his wife which promotes and helps publish reputable authors and screenwriters.

Living full-time in Tahoe, Jared loves playing in the mountains with his wife and two sons, committed each day to ski, skin, climb, hike, pedal, or paddle.


Steven Siig is a self-taught filmmaker living in Lake Tahoe, who first picked up a camera at the age of 19 to document his friends skiing steep lines. That passion grew into an action sports documentary career that took Siig to Alaska and South America to film snow sports and adventure travel for numerous productions such as Warren Miller Entertainment, TGR, Standard, and Matchstick Productions.

When his best friend was killed during the film production of a ski descent in the remote wilderness of Alaska, Siig decided to put the camera down.

In 2014, Siig took his knowledge of film to a different side of the movie industry, opening the Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema, a cinema drafthouse that shows major motion pictures, independent and action sports films, and hosts speakers, filmmakers, live music, and dance performances.

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