Avalanche kills Sylvan man

An avalanche in eastern B.C. Saturday claimed the life of a Sylvan Lake snowmobiler who had been trying to get a fellow rider unstuck when the avalanche hit.

Chris McCoy

An avalanche in eastern B.C. Saturday claimed the life of a Sylvan Lake snowmobiler who had been trying to get a fellow rider unstuck when the avalanche hit.

Chris McCoy and three other snowmobilers from Alberta were riding on an “extremely busy” Boulder Mountain near Revelstoke on Saturday afternoon when an avalanche was triggered around 3:30 p.m. McCoy and another rider were caught in the avalanche, and McCoy was eventually located unconscious under a large amount of snow by search and rescue crews and evacuated via helicopter, but could not be resuscitated.

The other rider survived with non-life threatening injuries.

McCoy’s widow, Kathy, said her husband had an intense passion for sledding, and embraced adventure and challenges. He would get out sledding as often as he could, and loved simply being outdoors.

“Ever since I’ve known him, he’s been a sled head. He breathed sledding,” said Kathy, who married Chris just over five years ago.

But despite his fervor for ripping through snow in the mountains or around Sylvan Lake, McCoy, 36, emphasized safety. He knew Boulder Mountain inside-out, said Kathy, and always took precautions.

“He did have a beacon on him and he has all the appropriate gear that he needs for that and he was always very aware of what the conditions were, so this comes as a big surprise,” she said.

What did not surprise Kathy was hearing from McCoy’s brother, who was also in the riding party, that Chris had left his own ride just before the avalanche hit to aid another rider who had gotten stuck.

“He had absolutely no problem with helping somebody out. He said ‘If you don’t get stuck sledding, you’re not sledding hard enough,’ so he wouldn’t hesitate to go help somebody else out.

“If he saw somebody was stuck, he’d rip around and go back, help them out and keep going. He said that’s just part of sledding; you go help everybody out,” she said.

McCoy had recently become general manager of Cycle Works Motorsports in Red Deer, using his intimate knowledge of recreational machines to rise from being a salesman to manager in only six weeks, said Kathy. His dream, she said, was to own his own dealership.

McCoy’s passion for snowmobiling spread to his wife after they married, and a trip to the same Boulder Mountain over Christmas gave Kathy’s two sons the sledding bug as well.

“It was awesome. He smiled when we left here, and that smile didn’t go away until we came back . . . . My oldest son, we weren’t even off the mountain yet and he was already texting his uncle asking if he could buy his sled,” said Kathy.

McCoy turned 36 the day before the avalanche took his life. He celebrated his birthday in the mountains, where the group of riders had travelled to test out a snowmobile to be added to the Cycle Works lineup.

Kathy said if her husband was able to speak any final words, “he would probably address anybody that was a snowmobiler and say ‘Go rip up the mountains.’ That was his life, that was his love. He’d probably tell them to go have fun; be safe, have fun.”

Boulder Mountain is a very popular snowmobiling destination just outside of Revelstoke. Two snowmobilers were killed and 32 injured on the mountain in a 2010 avalanche.

mfish@bprda.wpengine.com

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