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Avalanches strike Alberta and British Columbia as warned

Click on the photo to watch videos about avalanches and how to prepare for the threat
Click on the photo to watch videos about avalanches and how to prepare for the threat

Lisa Varano, staff writer

January 17, 2011 — Avalanches kill two people in Alberta and one other in British Columbia at a time expected to be dangerous.

Widespread avalanche risk
Widespread avalanche risk

Emergency crews had to wait until daylight to recover the bodies of two men who died in a southern Alberta avalanche.

Rescuers in a helicopter flew over the avalanche scene on Saturday, but it was too late to save the pair. The victims were reached on Sunday in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, near the British Columbia border.

Also on Sunday, one man died at the scene of an avalanche in southeastern B.C.'s Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. He was part of a group of 15 skiers, including a doctor who provided first aid.

In another avalanche in B.C., seven people survived a slide. But one of them was injured when the avalanche came down an expert ski run on Saturday at Fernie Alpine Resort in southeastern B.C. He was later able to walk out of hospital on his own after being treated for a leg injury.

The risk of avalanches was high across Alberta and British Columbia on Saturday, and the danger briefly rose to extreme on Sunday in B.C.'s Glacier National Park, according to the Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC).

“We issue these when there's an increased risk of avalanche accidents,” says John Kelly of the Canadian Avalanche Centre.

The snowpack is in a prime state right now.
The snowpack is in a prime state right now.

Kelly says a recent Pacific system brought more than a metre of fresh snow to the mountains. “The snowpack is now at the prime state for recreationists to get out and so now a lot more people are exposed to the danger. When the storm ends, people often think the avalanche problem has ended too...and they may be actually recreating in places where it is a little bit too dangerous to go,” says Kelly.

Avalanche conditions through the Kootenays are being described as a 'once-in-30-years' cycle and their extremity is complicating travel around B.C.

Several routes through the south-central and southeastern regions have been closed because of the slide risk -- with one 13-km section of Highway One east of Golden not expected to reopen until Wednesday.

Highways officials say more than 30 avalanches have occurred along Highway One through the Kicking Horse Canyon, forcing detours. Drivers hoping to drive to or from Alberta are advised to use Highway 3 near Cranbrook or Highway 16 through McBride.

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, Jill Colton and Andrea Stockton

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