At least three people have died and four were injured in an avalanche southwest of Invermere Wednesday morning, according to a statement from the community’s mayor.
Mayor Al Miller told CTV News Calgary that nine heli-ski guests and a guide were involved in the avalanche and that multiple deaths had been reported. Previous reports from local media said four people had been taken to the hospital.
“I’ve heard the number of three. I haven’t checked with the hospital to verify that, but I understand it to be three.”
– Al Miller
The slide happened around noon yesterday near Panorama Mountain Resort, BC, the RCMP confirmed last night. Initial reports are that multiple people, who had been heli-skiing in the area, were caught in the avalanche.
“It happened outside the bounds of Panorama, it wasn’t inside the resort, it was in the heli-ski area territory.”
– Al Miller
As of last night, police were still trying to confirm and identify all those involved and the severity of the survivors’ injuries.
Numerous emergency resources, including four ambulances, search and rescue, police dog services, and frontline RCMP officers, responded to the incident.
The group was on a heli-skiing trip with RK Heliski who fly out of Panorama, BC.
Avalanche Canada confirmed preliminary reports of a slide near Invermere but does not have further information.
“There are preliminary reports of a serious avalanche incident near Invermere today. We do not currently have anymore information on this.”
– Avalanche CA
The danger rating for yesterday was ‘considerable’. Today’s forecast warns:
“Steer clear of freshly wind loaded features. Wind slabs are expected to remain reactive to human triggers.
Avoid thin and rocky start zones, especially in the alpine and upper treeline where deeply buried weak layers remain concerning.”
The deaths add to the nine already seen in Canada this season and 13 in the US. 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, January 21st, 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. On Saturday, February 11th, 2023, two backcountry skiers were caught and killed in an avalanche on Potato Peak near Tatla Lake, British Columbia. On February 16th a skier and snowboarder were killed by an avalanche outside Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, BC.
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 which saw 25 fatalities.