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Posted: January 2, 2018

Avalanche buried skier rescued by partner

An incident near Panorama Mountain Resort Sunday showcases why one should never ski alone in the backcountry.

On December 31, at about 2:30 p.m., Columbia Valley RCMP received a report from a Columbia Valley Search and Rescue team that they were investigating a possible avalanche involving two skiers on the backside of Panorama Mountain.

“It was relayed that witnesses had observed an avalanche debris field in which two sets of ski tracks had gone into but none had exited,” said Columbia Valley RCMP Detachment commander Sgt. Bob Vatamaniuck.

RCMP responded immediately to the report so a search could be facilitated.

Once on scene it was determined that the identified skiers had been skiing in the Hopeful Creek area behind the Panorama ski hill when one of the skiers had been caught up in an avalanche and buried.

“Although he had been buried completely by the avalanche he was rescued quickly by the other skier who saw the buried skiers’ hand sticking out of the snow. Both skiers were experienced and were equipped to be in the backcountry,” Sgt. Vatamaniuck reported.

The buried skier was checked over by emergency health services and deemed to be uninjured.

“It was anticipated that the skier who dug his friend out of the snow was likely to have some free drinks when they celebrated the New Year,” Vatamaniuck said.

Avalanche Canada reports the South Rockies and Lizard Range and Flathead areas have ‘considerable’ avalanche conditions following the recent cold snap and snowfall.

“We’re into a tricky period as a critical amount of storm snow settles (into a slab) and sits on a buried weak layer. Keep your terrain choices on the conservative side until conditions stabilize,” Avalanche Canada reports for those areas.

In the Purcells, avalanche likelihood in the high alpine is considerable while lower areas are ‘moderate,’ for today and tomorrow (Jan. 3).

“Rapid warming in the alpine and a persistent weak layer 30-50 cm below the surface are both good reasons to be cautious,” Avalanche Canada says of the Purcells.

If you intend to venture into the backcountry, be smart and check out Avalanche Canada’s website for updates and conditions.

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