Two groups of skiers were struck by separate avalanches in the Pemberton area Saturday (March 4), fully burying one man and partially burying another.
The hit skiers were lucky to have fast-acting companions who dug them out, leaving them seriously injured but alive.
The first reported avalanche came down around 1:15 p.m near Mount Marriott. A party of three skiers accidentally triggered a thin wind slab, carrying one of them downhill through trees and burying him in about 40 to 100 centimetres of snow.
He was pulled out by his fellow skiers and rescued by helicopter by Pemberton Search and Rescue.
The avalanche was classified as a 2.0, enough to “bury, injure or kill a person,” according to Avalanche Canada.
Pemberton SAR Manager David MacKenzie said it was while attending that call that they received a second one from about 2 kilometres away. Another group of three skiers had been hit.
According to an Avalanche Canada report, the skiers were descending from a route in the Cayoosh Pass when they accidentally got too close to a gully and set off a slide.
“The first skier miraculously ended up on top of the debris with no injuries. Second skier was fully buried and the third skier located and extracted them within approximately five minutes of the slide,” the report reads.
The buried skier was airlifted out by Pemberton SAR before being taken to hospital.
The avalanche was classified as a 2.5.
MacKenzie said both men suffered “multiple traumas,” and that the extent of their injuries likely weren’t determined until they got to hospital.
“When you first find someone they could appear to be generally okay but quite often there are internal injuries.”
MacKenzie said Saturday’s calls were the first time this winter his team has been deployed to avalanche incidents, but it’s been far from calm elsewhere in B.C.
So far this season, 12 people have been killed in avalanches. The latest fatal slide claimed three lives near Invermere on March 1.
“People need to pay attention to warnings,” MacKenzie said. “If I had my wish right now, I’d tell people not to go into the backcountry at all. The risk it too high.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated. It previously said three skiers were impacted. One of those incidents was accidentally reported twice to Avalanche Canada.
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