SEATTLE -- Elyse Saugstad says she is “still in shock" after three of her friends died in an avalanche Sunday on Stevens Pass.
Saugstad is a professional skier originally from Alaska. She was among 13 other skiers who were skiing in the back country of Stevens Pass when an avalanche swept four of them 1,500 feet down a mountain.
Chris Rudolph, marketing director for the Stevens Pass ski area, professional freestyle skiing judge Jim Jack and John Brenan were killed. All of three skiers killed were well-equipped and experienced. All three were believed to be in their 30s and 40s.
"We didn't anticipate it, but when we saw it happening. we knew exactly what was happening," Saugstad told the TODAY show. "It's amazing how quickly an avalanche happens and it progresses."
Saugstad said she immediately pulled the lever on her avalanche safety backpack, commonly used in Europe. The backpack inflates an airbag around your upper body and lifts you above the avalanche, so you stay on top of the snow.
Saugstad suffered minor injuries in the avalanche. She credits the avalanche safety backpack for saving her life.
"Don't get me wrong. It's not like you're taking an inner tube ride down some snow fill. You're definitely in the avalanche and it feels like you're in a washing machine and being flipped and tumbled," said Saugstad. "It's white the entire way - it's very scary."
Saugstad told TODAY 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 said. "I’m absolutely devastated at the loss of our friends. My heart goes out to the family and the skiing community."
When asked if she would ever ski again, Saugstad said yes.
More to follow.
Watch TODAY's full interview with Elyse Saugstad below.