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Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek – a must-read New York Times feature

Snow Fall - The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek

The nice thing about the Christmas holiday is that you have time to read things that you normally would not make time for. A few days ago I saw several links on Twitter to the Snow Fall multimedia article that the New York Times published. It seemed too long to read that day so I saved it for later. Often that means that I would read it in Pocket on my iPad or iPhone while commuting, but for this article that would have taken away the extra features that make it so special.

The multimedia content blew me away and that’s why I decided to put this post on my blog. I am not sure whether the New York Times plans to publish more articles like this or if this is just a test, but what they published was just amazing. A great design and a combination of pictures, video and audio that I have not seen before. If it was just a test I think it was probably a big success, considering how much was written about this article in different online media. The New York Times once again shows the way forward for Old Media.

Snow Fall describes a deadly avalanche at Tunnel Creek (Stevens Pass, WA) in February this year. It’s not just a very readable story, but it uses all forms of multimedia to illustrate the article. The piece starts with a full screen looping video of snow blowing over a mountain slope, which disappears when you scroll down. After reading a few paragraphs the story talks about one of the survivors of the avalanche and this is illustrated with a video interview with her about her experience.

Weather at Stevens Pass

This is how the feature keeps on illustrating the written content: from videos about backcountry skiing (very inspiring, although that was likely not the intent of the article) to maps of the area showing not only where the skiers were during the avalanche but also how the avalanche moves down the mountain. There is video from the helmet cameras of some of the skiers, slideshows with private pictures of the skiers, but also features on how and why avalanches occur. Even audio of the 911 calls of the survivors of the avalanche was included, which makes the story even more real.

This feature may be the future of online quality journalism, and this is something I would gladly pay for. The New York Times is actually the only online newspaper that I pay for right now (I subscribe to their online and iPad editions), but this feature is also free for non-subscribers. The only thing I was surprised about was that the iPad edition did not contain most of the multimedia features of the online article. If you spend so much time and money on an article like this the New York Times should have also put it into their iPad app.

To the Peak

You should read, watch and listen to this for yourself, so go to the article to experience it when you have some time during the upcoming holidays. I don’t think you will regret it.

There is also a 10-minute documentary at the end of the article about the avalanche. If you don’t want to read the whole feature, you can watch the documentary here.

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