Two backcountry skiers were caught and killed in an avalanche on an east-facing slope on Potato Peak, approximately 25 miles south of Tatla Lake, British Columbia, on Saturday, 11th February, reports Avalanche Canada.
The skiers had accessed the area using snowmobiles but were skiing at the time of the accident. Both victims were fully buried and did not survive. Search and Rescue was notified when the victims were reported overdue. The victims were located and recovered from the accident location.
The size 2 deep, persistent slab avalanche ran on a layer of facets approximately 10-25″ from the base of the snowpack. The slope was highly wind-affected, containing deeply wind-drifted snow and areas where the snow cover was thin and rocky. The crown depth was reported to be highly variable, between 25 and 50″.
Avalanche Canada senior forecaster Simon Horton said the deadly avalanche occurred outside the Avalanche Canada forecasting area.
“This incident occurred in a very remote and rugged area where we don’t get information about the snow or recent avalanche activity, which is really important information to produce a reliable forecast.”
– Simon Horton
The BC Coroner’s office and the RCMP are investigating the incident.
The deaths are Canada’s sixth and seventh this season and the 12th and 13th in North America. Two guests on a guided heli-ski trip with Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH) Heli Skiing were killed in an avalanche near Revelstoke, BC, on January 23rd. On Saturday, 21st January, a snowmobiler died after being caught in an avalanche near Valemont, BC. On January 9th, two off-duty officers from the Nelson Police Department were caught in a slide near Kaslo, BC. One died at the scene, and another two weeks later.
Experts say the snowpack only gets this weak every 10 to 20 years, and this year is similar to 2003, one of the deadliest avalanche seasons on record.