2 more dead in one of B.C.’s most dangerous avalanche seasons

A total of 5 people have died in the province's backcountry this year. Avalanche Canada warns the snowpack this season is unusually weak and will likely remain dangerous for some time.

A total of 5 people have died after being caught in avalanches in the province's backcountry this year

Two more people have died in what is shaping up to be one of British Columbia's most dangerous avalanche seasons.

The latest fatalities occurred near the town of Revelstoke, B.C., about 200 kilometres northeast of Kelowna.

According to a statement from CMH HeliSkiing, which provides guided backcountry tours, three people were caught in the avalanche around 2:46 p.m. MT Monday — two clients who were fully buried and one guide who was partially buried.

The two clients were dug out and flown to Kelowna General Hospital, where they were pronounced dead, the company said.

The guide is in stable condition.

"The thousands of guests who ski with us each winter are like our family," CMH president Rob Rohn said in a written statement.

"It is impossible to put into words the sorrow that we feel and the sadness that is shared by our guests, their families and all of our staff."

RCMP say the avalanche happened in the Mount McRae area, near the Alkolkolex tenure southeast of Revelstoke near an area known as "Chocolate Bunnies."

The B.C. Coroners Service has taken over the investigation.

Once-in-a-decade dangers

Avalanche Canada has warned the snowpack this season is unusually weak and highly susceptible to avalanches, with conditions usually seen once every one or two decades.

In addition to the two fatalities Monday, three other people have died in B.C.'s backcountry this year.

Two off-duty Nelson police officers died after being caught in an avalanche near Kaslo two weeks ago and over the weekend a snowmobiler from Grande Prairie, Alta., was killed in an avalanche near Valemount, east of Prince George.

Another person was taken to hospital Monday after being caught in an avalanche near the community of Cherryville, about 80 kilometres northeast of Kelowna.

Forecasters have told CBC that dangerous conditions are likely to persist for some time in the province, particularly in the Interior and northwest B.C.

A map shows avalanche risk in the province is low on B.C.'s south coast, moderate to high in the Interior, and moderate to high on B.C.'s northwest coast.

"Professionals with decades of experience suggest that this weak of a snowpack is only seen every 10 or 20 years," said Avalanche Canada forecaster Zoe Ryan.

She said extended drought late in 2022 has created "numerous weak, problematic" layers of snowpack that's more prone to slides.

She also said there is a higher likelihood of remote-triggered slides from people who aren't near avalanche terrain.

"Recreators really need to be aware of slopes that are above and adjacent to them," she said.

Experts offer safety training as forecasters predict a severe avalanche season in B.C.

14 days ago

Duration 1:32

Avalanche Canada is warning that B.C.'s snowpack this year is unusually weak and will be more vulnerable to avalanches. A Prince George Search and Rescue group is hoping those heading to the backcountry will take the time to train themselves in case of an avalanche disaster.

Avalanche Canada forecaster Simon Horton said the Interior and North of the province are particularly problematic, as mountain ranges have a below-average snow depth that is 60 to 70 per cent of what is typical for this time of year — with forecasted cold conditions coming next week prolonging the problem.

"Typically it's weather changes such as precipitation, wind or warming that cause avalanche danger to go up," he said.

"However, a cold period like what we're seeing coming up in the next week tends to keep things the same. So in the areas where we currently have a dangerous snowpack structure, we're expecting that to stay the same for some time."

Stormy weather on the northwest coast is also creating treacherous conditions.

"If you are going out, it's a time to pick very conservative terrain," Horton said.

Backcountry won't be closed

Dale Mason, a search manager with Robson Valley Search and Rescue whose team responded to the death in Valemount, says the snowpack base is very weak this year, with nothing holding it to the ground.

"It's basically a layer of marbles up there," he said.

Mason said the team was not able to land its helicopter on Saturday due to the ongoing avalanche risk.

A police constable is pictured smiling as he accepts his badge from the chief of the Nelson Police Department.

They recovered the body Sunday after Parks Canada performed avalanche control measures.

"I'm recommending that people make informed decisions on where they choose to ride," Mason said.

Ryan said Avalanche Canada cannot close backcountry access, nor would they seek to do so, but strongly urged people to avoid avalanche terrain — even if they are experienced in assessing avalanche conditions.

She also urged people to take safety training and be sure to carry safety gear including transceivers, probes and shovels.

Expert advice on avalanche safety in B.C.'s backcountry

15 days ago

Duration 1:05

Eric Dumerac of Mountain Skills Academy and Adventure and Monte Johnston of Black Sheep Adventure Sports offer up advice on equipment and training to stay safe in B.C.'s backcountry during the winter season.

with files from Michelle Gomez, Daybreak North and the Canadian Press

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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