PEMBERTON, B.C. — The lure of deep powder, fresh tracks and almost spring-like temperatures couldn’t keep four experienced backcountry skiers from venturing onto a British Columbia mountainside, where one of them died after being caught in an avalanche.
They packed their gear Thursday morning, tucking increasingly strident avalanche warnings into the back of their minds, as they trekked through a wonderland of backcountry trails in the Casper Creek region, northeast of Whistler.
The slide hit in the late afternoon as three of the four made their last descent on what had been a remarkable day. A skier in his 30s from Whistler was critically injured and later died on the mountainside while waiting for help.
“This gentleman paid with his life,” said Sgt. Peter Thiessen.
Fading light all but ruled out an air rescue; deteriorating conditions did the rest.
“It took a considerable amount of time for search-and-rescue ground crews to gain access and ultimately determine he had succumbed to his injuries,” said Thiessen.
Ground crews risked further avalanches, deep snow and darkness to reach the unnamed skier.
“One of his close buddies remained with him on the cold, dark mountain waiting for help while his buddy was dying, and you can only imagine what that must have been like for that individual,” said Thiessen.
Rescuers left the body at the scene and planned to return with more equipment to bring it out, but Thiessen said bad weather in the area could delay removal for some time.
Eleven people died in snow slides in Western Canada in 2010/2011– while Thursday’s death is the second of this avalanche season.