Home > Gripped Outdoors

Skier Buried Alive in B.C. Avalanche Rescued

The skier was in a group of four when she was caught in a size-two avalanche and buried under 1.5 metres of snow

A skier buried alive in an avalanche this past weekend while touring the Brooks Range near Mount Apps on Vancouver Island was rescued and is recovering in a Vancouver hospital.

According to Comox Valley Search and Rescue leader Paul Berry, his team members were contacted for a request for assistance from BC Ambulance to evacuate a woman who had been trapped in a size-two avalanche. “’Size two’ is a descriptor used in the avalanche community – it’s large enough to fully bury an individual and in this case that is exactly what happened,” Berry says.

He said it was fortunate that Sunday had manageable weather and provided some openings while RCMP Air Services got search teams to within 200 metres of the scene. He added that team members made a quick avalanche assessment and then cautiously removed the skier.

The skier was in a group of four and was one of two who were caught in the avalanche, but only she was buried. “The good thing is they were conscious of the terrain, they knew what they were doing, had all the equipment that they needed to have: beacons, probes and shovels and they had clearly practised using it,” Berry says. “The burial was, in my understanding, quite significant – a good metre-and-a-half down.”

“They effected a rescue incredibly quickly,” said Jan Neuspiel of Island Alpine Guides who spoke to one of the skiers. “From the time of the occurrence of the avalanche to getting the person that was buried in the snow out was about five minutes. So a really crack response.” Neuspiel says this is not a good time for anyone to be anywhere near avalanche terrain right now.

“That’s a lot of snow to move to get someone,” Berry says. “They were able to do that and free her face so that she was able to breathe and then slowly assessed her and looked after her and stabilized her until our team was able to access her.”

According to the Vancouver Island Avalanche Centre (VIAC), the alpine, treeline and below treeline rating for avalanches on Vancouver Island are all rated at ‘high.’ They report multiple ski and snowmobiles triggered avalanches on the Island. The elevated avalanche danger ratings for the next three days are a result of strong precipitation and winds forecasted for the regions. New precipitation incoming may vary depending on the area.

Always check avalanche conditions here before heading out.