The worst avalanche conditions in 30 years hampered efforts to rescue skiers stranded in a slide in British Columbia on Sunday.
The body of an Alberta man killed in the slide in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park was recovered Monday, but seven searchers were stranded while trying to rescue the man's companions.
Murray Springman of Nelson Search and Rescue said heavy snowfall and poor visibility forced two rescue helicopters to turn back from the accident scene at Tanal Peak Monday morning. A second attempt to recover the skier's body Monday afternoon was successful, but the rescue team was forced to leave some of its members behind due to continuing poor weather conditions.
Heavy snowfall created perfect conditions for deadly avalanches in southeastern B.C. over the weekend. On Saturday, two Alberta men died in a slide in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park near the B.C. border, while another man was injured when an avalanche raced down an expert ski run at Fernie Alpine Resort.
According to B.C.'s Ministry of Transport, controlled avalanches were triggered on Monday to reduce the risk of slides on the province's mountain highways. However, several routes have been closed due to the elevated risk, including one section of the Trans-Canada Highway east of Golden that is not expected to reopen until Wednesday.
John Kelly with the Canadian Avalanche Centre said conditions should improve as the weather turns colder this week.
“Cold weather usually produces a short-term improving of the snow pack,” he explained.
“The snow tightens up.”
The avalanche risk along the north shore of Vancouver was already listed as low by Monday afternoon, and Kelly said he expects to see improvement along the south coast and the interior by Wednesday or Thursday this week. In the meantime, people heading out on back-country adventures should still take precautions.
“High avalanche danger ... happens from time to time,” he said.
“It's part of the ups and downs of winter.”
To survive avalanche season, anyone who ventures into remote areas should know how to recognize dangerous terrain, the avalanche centre advises.
With files from The Canadian Press