A skier caught in an avalanche in Washington state's Cascade Mountains that killed three people credits her inflatable safety airbag for her survival.

Fifteen skiers were at Stevens Pass, 80 miles northeast of Seattle, Sunday when the avalanche pushed Elyse Saugstad and three men downhill nearly 3,000 feet.

Saugstad, a professional skier, survived the sudden descent in the cascading snow by employing an "avalanche rescue system" she was wearing.

"It's basically an airbag system that she deployed and assisted her in surviving," said Deputy Chris Bedker of the King County Sheriff's Search and Rescue. The device includes inflatable airbags that allow a person to float atop an avalanche instead of being buried.

Saugstad and the three men who died were swept an additional 1,500 feet down a chute in the Tunnel Creek Canyon area, sheriff's Sgt. Katie Larson said.

"We thought we were in a safe zone but ended up being swept in the avalanche," Saugstad told ABC News. "It happened really fast. Ultimately I think you don't have much time to react. The first thing that came to my mind was to use my airbag device."

The victims were identified as free-skiing world tour judge Jim Jack, Stevens Pass Marketing Director Chris Rudolph and skier John Brenan.