Avalanches kill three in parks

Avalanches claimed the lives of three men on the weekend in Alberta and B.C.

Avalanches claimed the lives of three men on the weekend in Alberta and B.C.

Two people were killed after being caught in an avalanche in Kananaskis Country on Saturday.

Another man, from Alberta, was killed in an avalanche in B.C. on Sunday.

RCMP say two men were in the Burstall Pass area of the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park on Saturday afternoon when they were swept away by the snow slide.

Three other people witnessed the avalanche which took place some 135 kilometres southwest of Calgary.

Kananaskis Public Safety dispatched a helicopter to the scene, but were too late to save the men.

One of the victims was found Saturday, but rescuers were unable to recover the body when darkness fell.

Emergency crews returned Sunday morning and were able to locate and recover both victims.

Police say neither men were wearing locator beacons.

Local officials have been warning people to stay away from the area where the avalanche occurred since Tuesday.

“We wouldn’t be recommending anybody head into alpine, or even treeline terrain simply because the avalanche rating has been so high,” said Duane Fizor, the information services co-ordinator for Kananaskis Country.

Fizor said the area where the slide took place is popular with telemark and alpine touring skiers, as well as a few travellers on snowshoes.

According to the Alberta government’s Saturday afternoon back country avalanche report for Kananaskis Country, rising temperatures combined with lots of snow and strong winds meant the risk for avalanche at treeline and above was high.

“Now is a good time to avoid exposure to avalanche terrain,” the online report stated, noting that conditions were ideal for slab development, which leads to avalanches.

Both men who were killed are believed to be in their forties, but police are withholding their identities until next of kin has been notified.

Autopsies are scheduled for this week.

A man was killed Sunday when an avalanche hit a group of skiers in a British Columbia park — the third slide in a deadly weekend on B.C. and Alberta mountains, where forecasters had warned of precarious conditions.

The latest slide happened Sunday in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park, about 30 kilometres north of Nelson.

Cpl. Dan Moskaluk of the RCMP said the man was in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park with a group of 15 skiers when the avalanche struck.

He said the victim was buried in the slide, and his companions dug him out within minutes. A doctor who was with the group provided first-aid, but the man died of his injuries.

“Throughout the day, we had communications with the group, the remainder of the group was fine,” said Moskaluk.

A search-and-rescue helicopter was dispatched to the scene, but heavy snow and poor visibility delayed the recovery operation until today.

Police didn’t release the name of the victim, but Moskaluk said he was from Alberta.

The RCMP expected to release more information today.

Also on Saturday, seven people were on a run at the Fernie Alpine Resort in southeastern B.C. when they were caught in an avalanche. None of them were buried, but a young skier suffered leg injuries.

The Canadian Avalanche Centre’s latest bulletin says the risk of slides is high throughout much of British Columbia, as well as the Alberta Rockies.

The centre’s website says anyone heading into the backcountry in those areas should expect “very dangerous avalanche conditions,” and travel in avalanche terrain wasn’t recommended.

Several highways in B.C. were closed Sunday due to the elevated avalanche risk.

During the 2009-2010 season, 12 people were killed in avalanches in Canada — all but one in B.C.

The year before that, 26 people died in avalanches, including eight snowmobilers who were killed in a slide near Fernie.