An Unexpected 6-Night Ordeal in the British Columbia Backcountry Leaves One Skier with Frostbite

Dylan Cautela | BackcountryBackcountry
Scoring bottomless pow at Kicking Horse. Source; Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.

A 35-year old man from Quebec spent six nights in the backcountry after leaving Kicking Horse Mountain Resort’s boundaries to ski some fresh lines off the backside. The Canadian, unprepared and unknowing of the size and amount of terrain offered by the Canyon Creek backcountry just out of bounds of Kicking Horse, left the resort to make some fresh turns on January 29th. It wasn’t until he had reached the bottom of the run and began to bootpack back into the resort that he realized it would be an extremely long and difficult climb and that he had not relayed his travel plans with anyone nor that he had left the resort.

“Canyon Creek is an area just beyond the resort boundaries that tends to draw in skiers, it‘s often the first place to be searched when someone goes missing.”

Marco Shenovac, Golden RCMP detachment

Golden and District Search and Rescue performing a rescue from the helicopter. Source; Golden and District SAR

After his first night in the backcountry and a failed attempt to climb back into the resort, the man chose to abandon his hope of escape through the resort and started trudging down the creek hoping to reach civilization in that direction. Unfortunately, he spent another five nights trudging through deep snow and managing severe frostbite and hypothermia as temperatures dipped to -20 celsius through the nights with wind and weather wearing him down.

On February 3rd, it became apparent that the Quebec registered vehicle, which hadn’t moved for several days from the Kicking Horse parking lot, may belong to someone in distress. The Golden Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) were notified of the car and made attempts to contact the owner. After failing to get a hold of the car owner, the Golden RCMP dispatched Golden and District Search and Rescue (GADSAR) teams for assistance, who began their mission on the morning of February 4th in a helicopter searching commonly-traveled backcountry areas for signs of human traffic.

Beautiful sunsets over the Canadian Rockies from Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Source; Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.

All the recent snowfall in the area made searching for tracks from the eagle-eye point of view of a helicopter very difficult. Fortunately, the GADSAR crew spotted tracks near the creek and were able to rescue the man who had made it eight kilometers down stream. Upon his rescue, the Quebec man was diagnosed with severe frostbite and hypothermia and flown to the Golden hospital where he should make a full recovery.

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