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A Wall of White: The True Story of Heroism and Survival in the Face of a Deadly Avalanche
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A Wall of White: The True Story of Heroism and Survival in the Face of a Deadly Avalanche

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  143 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
A Wall of White: The True Story of Heroism and Survival in the Face of a Deadly Avalanche
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published February 17th 2009 by Atria Books (first published 2009)
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Jun 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An essential history lesson for any Tahoe local, or else an introduction to how badass ski patrollers are at Alpine Meadows. This book chronicles the events surrounding the largest avalanche to strike within a U.S. ski area, as well as the everyday heroes who rose to the occasion to become legends. Even though one of the patrollers in this book, Casey Jones, was the person to first tell me about this slide, the book has much more personal details to some of the people who were either killed or r ...more
Anna Engel
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: stopped-reading
There was waaaaaaaaay too much detail on the lives of those involved. Like, I get that it was a horrible tragedy, but I don't really care about what kind of cake needed to be made for a daughter's birthday.
Apr 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
What seems to be a monotonous tale of individual characters in the first half of this book, makes a very personal and vivid story in the second half. A detailed and touching story of heroism, with a reminder that we can't control as much as we like to think we can. The story is well told and rightfully honors the victims of this tragic event.
Melvin Marsh, M.S.
Please note, this review refers to an ARC of “A Wall of White.”

This book tells the story of the devastating Alpine Meadows avalanche in March 1982. “A Wall of White” is written in a very similar style, a journalistic style, to “Into Thin Air” which covered the Everest disaster in 1996. In this reader’s opinion, it started off a little slow and I believe that some of the first 10 chapters can easily be reduced in size or eliminated entirely since it acted as a setup for the parts to follow. The s
Elaine Loh
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
Wayyyyy too many superfluous details. It’s good to talk about the backgrounds of the victims and people involved but not to the point of writing about what kind of birthday cake the girl had, or how many rooms which floor contained, etc.
The first half the book read like an editor hadn’t gone through it.
Building background stories to create empathy and understand of characters is important but not to a point where it meanders and makes the readers skip paragraphs and paragraphs on end.
Kate Picher
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this book because it is the rescue story of my manager, Anna Allen. But it is much more. I learned so much about the ski patrol and avalanche control. The background information on each of the victims was well done and apprecited. This is actually an easy read and exciting in many ways.
Tammy Dotts
Nov 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, disaster
On March 31, 1982, a devastating avalanche occurred at Alpine Meadows, a ski resort near Lake Tahoe, Calif. High on the mountain, a quarter-mile-long fracture sent a wave of snow 800 feet down the slope. The destructive energy of the avalanche didn’t dissipate until it had torn apart the resort’s operation center — the Summit Terminal Building — as well as ending seven lives.

Jennifer Woodlief’s A Wall of White takes readers into the days before and after the avalanche. Woodlief’s strengths as an
Doug Cornelius
I wanted to really like this book. But I didn't.

Jennifer Woodlief tells the story of the 1982 avalanche at the Lake Tahoe ski resort of Alpine Meadows. She chronicles the stories of the victims of the avalanche and those left to conduct the rescue and recovery efforts. A ten day storm left 14 fourteen feet of snow on the resort's slopes. These are slopes that already had some unstable layers of snow. When they finally let go, a wall of white destroyed the base lodge and covered the parking, bury

A Wall of White; The True Story of Heroism and Survival in the Face of a Deadly Avalanche (2009) written by Jennifer Woodlief is a fascinating and amazing story about a blizzard, an avalanche, and the heroic people who set out to rescue survivors. The deadly avalanche occurred on March 31, 1982 at the Alpine Meadows ski resort near Lake Tahoe, California. A blizzard rolled into the area and dropped more than four feet of snow--on top of previously existing layers of snow-- in three days. Three a
Mar 20, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: earlyreviewer
Let me be honest, I'm a bit crazy. Crazy about how things are written. I don't write in perfect grammar, nor do I expect it in casual writing. But I do expect a level of grammatical competence and editorial excellence. This book did not meet my standards. It was written as spoken, informal and relaxed. I think I had an early review copy, so some mispellings and grammar problems might be fixed by the book's next printing. However, I thought it was unnacceptably relaxed sometimes.[return][return]A ...more
Bernadette Calonego
May 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: disaster, non-fiction
This book proves that events in the past can be equally compelling today if a talented author tackles the subject. Jennifer Woolief wrote the story about a deadly avalanche at a U.S. ski resort near Lake Tahoe in 1982 that killed seven people like a thriller.
A thriller that has the qualities of a thoroughly researched non-fiction-book.
I skipped some more technical passages about avalanche rescue procedures (more aimed at for insiders) but it did not deter me from "eating up" this book.
In an epi
Annie Fyfe
Jan 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Having grown up in Tahoe City this was a must read for me. Although this avalanche happened before I was born I had heard about it, just not in detail. The whole book was a little spooky to me when she described all the background stories of everyone involved becasue while reading it you just know some of them are going to die. I thought it was a great explaination of how avalanches happen, how they kill people, and how ski resorts try to control them. I liked how all that lead into telling abou ...more
Feb 09, 2014 rated it did not like it
I read this book because it is the local "community read." I also gave every junior a copy of the book. I don't know how I finished reading this book; it is just terrible. I hope that other community members don't get turned off and stop participating next year. Last year's book, Nature Noir, was so much better. You can tell from page one that she is a reporter, not a writer. I just read the section today where she blames other people for three of the deaths in the book. It was an avalanche for ...more
May 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
I spent a couple of months in the winter of 1970 living in a cabin in Alpine Meadows and enjoying the skiing and the social life up there. I was often woken in the mornings by the howitzer that was used as part of the ski resort's avalanche control, and I was always a little bit paranoid about avalanches in that steep valley. My friend who owned the house just gave me this book to read--it's about a devastating avalanche that killed several people at the resort in 1986. She couldn't put it down. ...more
Sandra Strange
This account of a 1982 avalanche in a ski resort near Lake Tahoe begins by introducing the people who experienced it. The reader knows that seven of these people will be killed in the avalanche--but not which ones. The author then tells the fateful events leading up to the avalanche and the tiny decisions and events that determine the fate of its victims. The account of the avalanche and its aftermath is riveting. (English teachers--this account really pairs well with The Bridge of San Luis Rey, ...more
Apr 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: True-adventure readers, people who love the outdoors, skiers, hikers
This is a wonderfully true, tragic account of a freak-of-nature avalanche written by a woman journalist (unusual for a true-adventure story). The avalanche occurred in 1982 at the Alpine Meadows ski resort in the Sierra Nevadas. I was in my second year of college then and loved reading and recalling the rugged ski patrol crew plus, having learned to ski in Ohio and not skiing outside of New York and Pennsylvania where avalancle control was not needed, the details about avalanches, snow, etc. are ...more
After Junger's 'The Perferct Storm' and Krakauer's 'Into Thin Air' did we need another in this well-mined vein? The answer is decidedly YES. Woodlief does a great job in drawing you into the lives of the participants so much you can touch the snow. I couldn't get through the book fast enough because I was so wrapped up in how it would be resolved. I love the technical info as well. But above all else is the human drama so ably told. I graduated from college in 1982 and will forever think of that ...more
Apr 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: outdoors
A riveting read with just a few too many characters to keep straight otherwise I would give it a fourth star. Summarizing the life story of seven victims and associated survivors was bound to be confusing - it's why the tragedy of the Titanic is not told in individual accounts. But the book kept a steady pace and followed a logical timeline. Kudos to the author for telling the story of a little known event that impacted so many people.
Sep 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
I'd give it a 4 1/2, I did find all the technical details and background stories to drag down the telling of the story a bit, but on a whole, a fascinating story about a place I'm very familiar with, having grown up skiing at Alpine Meadows and even spending a season working the switchboard. Recommend to all who have every skied at Alpine Meadows or for anyone who's looking for an in depth story about an avalanche, definitely similar to The Perfect Storm.
May 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
The book flap leads you to believe the book is going to be about an incredible rescue of a young woman, and how she survived buried under more than 10 feet of snow. Instead the book took the first 200 pages to introduce all the people who worked at the ski resort and the vacationers who happened to be at the resort during the avalanche. The last 40 pages of the book were interesting, but not worth it!
Apr 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One mark of a fantastic story is when you already know the outcome but are still enthralled by the telling of the tale. Some people may think they have already heard everything about the avalanche at Alpine Meadows in 1982, but Woodlief's recounting of the events and people involved is superb. The writing is excellent and the story is moving. I originally read it a few years ago, picked it up for a re-read recently, and enjoyed it even more the second time around. Highly recommended.
May 02, 2011 rated it liked it

I really like stories of disasters and survival and courage. This was a very good one. I especially enjoyed the detailed information about snow and avalanche control. While I appreciate knowing the back stories of the people involved, I think maybe a little too much time was spent there. Overall, it was a good read.
Feb 19, 2014 marked it as to-read
Shelves: nonfiction
Placed County's One Book, One Community selected book is Wall of White, the true story of a deadly avalanche in Alpine Meadows in the late 1970's. Speakers, programs are in the plans, and the kick-off is coming in time for the March 31 anniversary of the Wall of White event. I'm excited to take part... and challenge all my 8th grade students to join in!
May 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
A good read about a tragic avalanche in Lake Tahoe...long set up of characters, their jobs or why they were there at that particular time, but the story becomes more effective because you know something about the people...which is the whole reason to read books like this...without the people, the story would be meaningless.
Jan 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Incredible story but I got lost in all of the background. The author is way too thorough, even going into the personal history of a dog that enters into the rescue mission. Worth reading for those interested in the world of ski and avalanche patrol.
Jun 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A great moment by moment story of an unexpected and tragic avalanche at a California ski resort. Compelling read. Written by my daughter-in-law. Her new book bolt from the blue is released tomorrow!!
Edward H. Busse, III
Mar 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-owned
Alpine Valley - California - 1982 - an epic snowstorm and titanic avalanche - an excellent read with great survivor interviews and how this changed avalanche control in the ski industry. Another good book with lots of science, weather, emotion and people.
Apr 19, 2009 rated it liked it

quick read. Not something I normally go for, but my Stepmom lost her first husband and daughter in the avalanche.
It's a pretty compelling story, and her nature descriptions are well crafted. It's just hard to read a story and savor the details when you know how it's going to end.
Jan 13, 2014 rated it liked it
I look forward to the One Book Community events in Auburn focused on this book. I vaguely remember the Alpine avalanche from my childhood. This gave me a new understanding and respect for the people who keep the ski slopes that my family loves to frequent safe.
Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was ok
The story progresses fairly linearly, but could have been written more compellingly. There are several dramas that fall flat amidst the tragedy, that could have been elevated in their humanity. Only a good read because I love Alpine Meadows and wanted the history behind the lore.
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