Widow invited to sit on safety panel

A Lacombe woman whose husband died in an avalanche has been invited to sit on a panel charged with creating new rules and regulations for the 2010-11 winter sports season.

A Lacombe woman whose husband died in an avalanche has been invited to sit on a panel charged with creating new rules and regulations for the 2010-11 winter sports season.

Shay Snortland of Lacombe and his business partner, Kurtis Reynolds of Strathmore, were killed and 31 others were injured while watching fellow snowmobilers high marking during an informal event on a mountain near Revelstoke on Saturday, March 13.

The two men, both 33 years old, were in a group of about 200 people buried when an avalanche roared down the snow-covered slope on which fellow snowmobilers had been riding their machines. The riders had been high marking ­— a climbing contest, similar to motorcycle hill climbing, in which snowmobilers test their skill and their machines against steep slopes.

RCMP investigating the event announced late last week that they have decided against laying criminal charges in relation to the avalanche, which they believe was touched off by snowmobilers riding on the slope that failed.

Shay Snortland’s wife, Janine, said that she will sit on a panel with lawyers, avalanche experts and others to discuss new regulations aimed at keeping people safe while riding snowmobiles or cross-country skiing in mountainous regions.

Snortland, 34, said she has concerns about safety at the site, but at no time had she every wanted to see criminal charges laid against any of the people involved.

“The intent of the event was to have a good time, you know, and no, I didn’t want to see anybody charged,” she said.

“I think it’s a great event and they should continue it, but now have safety measures in place. Let’s just make it safe, right? Have safeguards. If there are avalanche warnings, it doesn’t go ahead.”

People are going out on their own anyway but with more rules in place, they could be turned away when snow conditions have become dangerous, said Snortland.

Losing their father has been hard on her two daughters, aged six and four, she said. The loss has been complicated with Snortland taking over K&S Oilfield Hauling, the trucking business Shay operated with Reynolds.

Because the business is located in Strathmore, Snortland has been on the road fairly often.

She believes being appointed to the panel will help her make things right.

“They want these new rules and regulations in place by next season. I’ve read them and I think they’re good.”

Once everything else has settled down, Snortland hopes to start fundraising for search and rescue organizations whose members risk their lives to save people.

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com