Four skiers had a lucky escape on Saturday, after being caught in an avalanche while skiing in the backcountry on Vancouver’s North Shore.
According to a report left on Avalanche Canada, the group was skiing mature old-growth glades, west of Hollyburn Mountain, far below the treeline.
At about 9 am, the first skier dropped in and skied a slope with a little sloughing, reads the report, but managed to ski to a safe area.
However, as the next three skiers prepared to drop in, the curved feature beneath them collapsed, catching all three in the ensuing avalanche.
According to the report, two of the skiers deployed airbags, and so remained at the surface, although partially buried.
However, one skier was completely buried under the snow, reads the report.
Luckily, the group reportedly all had transceivers so the buried skier was immediately found and dug out of the snow. Amazingly, no one was injured, and they only left one ski behind.
Higher risk of avalanches
The avalanche risk on Vancouver’s North Shore is currently higher than usual, because of the heavy rains hammering the area.
North Shore Search and Rescue team leader Mike Danks previously told Daily Hive that once you leave the boundaries of ski hills, you are entering backcountry avalanche terrain.
“People need to be prepared for snowy or icy conditions,” said Danks.
“You need to have a transceiver, a probe, and a shovel with you…and you need to understand how to use that equipment.”
To learn how to use that equipment, know how to choose your terrain, and mitigate the risks of getting stuck in an avalanche, Danks recommends an avalanche safety course.
Where to get avalanche safety training
Here are four places offering an Avalanche Skills Training (AST) Level 1 course in Vancouver:
- Cloudburst Avalanche Services – two-day course in classroom and on Cypress Mountain, $245
- Canada West Mountain School – two-day course in classroom and on Mt. Seymour, $235
- Grouse Mountain – two-day course on Grouse Mountain and in classroom, $225
- BC Ski Guides – two full field days on the North Shore and in Whistler, $250
If you’re entering avalanche terrain, Danks also advises bringing an ice axe, having crampons or hikers spikes with you, as well as your avalanche safety equipment.
And if you’re heading somewhere more remote, he recommends getting Spot or Delorme InReach satellite devices, that allow you to call for help from anywhere.
Check the avalanche bulletin
Danks understands the appeal of Vancouver’s mountains, but emphasizes the need to know the terrain and mitigate risks, especially of avalanches.
“We have some beautiful terrain on the North Shore, you just need to go with someone experienced, or you need to take a course before you venture out to those areas,” he said.
“You need to make sure you’re avoiding that avalanche terrain. And if you’re going in that terrain, you need to check the avalanche bulletin to see the current readings.”
To find the avalanche bulletin for Vancouver and around, and a comprehensive list of places to get avalanche safety training in your area, check here: avalanche.ca.