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Avalanche Warning as Another Canadian Skier Dies

This is a heads up for Ice climbers, skiers, snowboarders and anyone in the backcountry

The tragic season of avalanche deaths continues, as an avalanche warning has been issued for some areas of the Rocky Mountains along the B.C.-Alberta border. Avalanche Canada says the warning is in effect immediately and will last through the coming weekend.

The warning, aimed at recreational backcountry users, targets the north and South Rockies, the Lizard range and Flathead area plus Waterton Lakes National Park. “A persistent weak layer in the North Rockies has resulted in two recent fatalities,” said Avalanche Canada. “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.”

Avalanche Canada warning service manager Karl Klassen said “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. “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.”

A 35-year-old man has died as a result of an avalanche near Valemount this week. RCMP say a Fernie, B.C. resident’s body was found Feb. 24 after a 3.5-size avalanche was reported in the Swift Creek Valley. Robson Valley Search and Rescue (RVSAR) were called in as a trio of ‘experienced’ backcountry skiers got caught in the incident, two of whom survived the incident and didn’t sustain any injuries.

“Emergency Services were notified immediately by one of the survivors activating an InReach satellite communication device,” reads a police release. Mounties explain, however, the third skier was not found and crews conducted a search until darkness settled over.

Yesterday morning, the man was found deceased by RVSAR. The BC Coroners Service has since taken over the investigation and RCMP say no other information is available at this time. Avalanche Canada continues to encourage residents to use caution and to always be prepared when venturing out into the backcountry.

Over the past few weeks, a number of highly experienced backcountry skiers and snowboarders have died in avalanches. Last week, Michael McKelvey, 31, was killed in a small slide in Wyoming after hitting a jump and landing on a northeast-facing slope, the snow collapsed and caused an avalanche which buried McKelvey in three metres of snow. It was the second fatal avalanche in Wyoming within 24 hours. A Michigan man died after a group of snowmobilers became caught in an avalanche Wednesday afternoon in the Squaw Creek Drainage southeast of Alpine.

Two weeks ago, Squamish climber Dave Henkel, 45, was killed after getting caught in the Poop Chutes in Whister, read more about the accident here. The week before that, top Italian climber and skier Carlalberto “Cala” Cimenti, 45, and his partner Patrick Negro, died in an avalanche near Cima del Bosco in Italy. Read more about the accident here. And in early February, eight highly exererienced skiers died in avalanches in Colorado and Utah, read about it here.