The first avalanche of this weekend was reported on Saturday the 20th during mid to late morning in the Esplanade Range. A group of snowmobilers, including victim Nick Roberts, were out sledding in the Quartz Creek snowmobile area (approximately 10 km from the Beaver Area). Search and Rescue was alerted through the use of an emergency GPS beacon. Roberts was one of two caught in the slide, but the only fatality of this avalanche. It is estimated that the size of this avalanche was an R2. Roberts was a mechanic for the Calgary Fire Department and his passion lay within snowmobiling; a coworker, Steven Fontana recalls, “he loved snowmobiling; that’s all he talked about” and ,”He was just a really good guy, a good mechanic”. The other victim caught in this same slide was a man in his 40’s from Winnipeg- he is currently in the hospital and expected to survive. The other snowmobilers were unharmed.
The second avalanche of the weekend near Golden, BC occurred relatively early in the morning as six ambulances and two helicopters from Calgary and STARS were dispatched to Sunrise Lodge around 11 AM on Sunday. The slide itself was somewhere between an R2 and R3 in terms of how much of the slope slid. Thirteen skiers were caught in this slide on a “self-guided” tour; luckily everyone in the group was located and only seven group members sustained injuries. One critically injured skier was taken to Calgary and the other to Kamloops. The other five with minor injuries were treated in Golden. Fortunately there have been no fatalities from this particular incident.
Both of these avalanches occurred during an avalanche warning that was effective across Eastern and South Eastern BC issued by Avalanche Canada. More specifically the warning was issued from Friday, February 19th thru Monday, February 22nd- affecting the North Columbia, South Columbia, the Purcells, Kootenay Boundary, and Glacier National Park.
There have been an unfortunately large number of avalanche injuries and fatalities this season. Perhaps it’s due to the technological innovation of ski gear which is allowing more and more folks to enjoy the backcountry, or perhaps there are other reasons. Regardless, the obvious takeaway from this article is to STAY SAFE OUT THERE. Have the right gear, get educated, and make the right decisions. Always check the avalanche report and make conservative decisions as a group so that we can minimize the amount we read about deaths from this season.