A backcountry skier was killed by an avalanche in the Swift Creek valley, northeast of Valemount, BC, on Tuesday.
The 35-year-old from Fernie, BC, was skiing with two others who were also caught in the 3.5-size slide. They were able to self-rescue but could not find their friend.
His body was recovered the following day in the avalanche debris field by Robson Valley Search and Rescue.
A preliminary report on Avalanche Canada says:
Party travelled up trees on the west side of slope. Circled around to top of slope to avoid a concerning area of wind loading. At start of slope, skiers descended one at a time and regrouped near the base of the slope below an outcrop of trees. Transitioned to skinning and started an up track over existing ski tracks. Group discussed possible terrain trap to the east. Second person felt a settlement and notified party. Shortly after a much larger settlement occurred and triggered a wind loaded section at ridge line. This triggered remaining slope. All parties were caught in the ensuing avalanche. Two members had avalanche airbags and deployed them during the slide. One member came to rest face down, head down but was able to clear their face and remove their backpack to initiate SOS. self extricated and initiated beacon search. Travelled upslope and found second member face up, head down and partially buried. Assisted in their extrication and continued beacon search for third missing group member. Unable to obtain signal and believe SOS device was negatively affecting search function (intermittent signal found and chased from 70m to 20m before lost, numerous times). Search and rescue arrived on scene at 5pm.
The avalanche was approx. 1,300-feet wide, 20-55″ deep and ran approximately 2,600-feet, nearly to the valley bottom.
A special public avalanche warning was issued Thursday afternoon for recreational backcountry users in the North Rockies, South Rockies, the Lizard & Flathead, and Waterton Lakes National Park and will be in effect through the coming weekend.
Special Public Avalanche Warning for North and South Rockies, Waterton Lakes National Park
Feb 25, 2021, Revelstoke BC: Avalanche Canada is issuing a Special Public Avalanche Warning for recreational backcountry users in the North Rockies, South Rockies, the Lizard & Flathead, and Waterton Lakes National Park. This warning is in effect immediately and through the coming weekend. Avalanche Canada forecasters will reassess the situation on Monday to determine if the warning should be extended into next week.
A persistent weak layer in the North Rockies has resulted in two recent fatalities. This layer is also the suspected cause of a near-miss incident in the South Rockies, which resulted in very serious injuries. The layer of concern is widespread throughout the province but is most susceptible to human triggering in these regions.
“The next wave of storms is going to make for great riding but will also increase the load on these persistent weak layers, making avalanches even easier to trigger,” explains Warning Service Manager Karl Klassen. “This string of fatal and serious incidents should be a wake-up call for all backcountry users, especially in the North and South Rockies. This layer is deep enough that it’s not easily seen, but large and destructive human triggered avalanches are expected.”
Backcountry users should always check their regional avalanche forecasts at www.avalanche.ca. Everyone in a backcountry party needs the essential rescue gear—transceiver, probe, and shovel—and the knowledge to use it.