An avalanche struck two snowmobilers near Valemount, B.C. on Saturday (Jan. 21), burying and killing one of them.
A report from Avalanche Canada says the two were riding at the base of a 40-45 degree slope known as Bowl 3 in the Oasis snowmobile area south of Valemount when a wave of snow came down.
One of the two managed to ride away from the avalanche, but the second snowmobiler was completely buried. The survivor later dug through the snow and found the victim, but they were already unresponsive.
Avalanche Canada says the slab of snow that broke off was reported to be between 80 and 120 cm deep. The public safety non-profit says the avalanche was remote triggered, meaning what set it off was away from the point where it occurred.
Avalanche Canada says this happens when a slab fractures the weak layer of snow below it, but instead of splitting off there, the fracture spreads until it finds a steep enough portion of slope that an avalanche can occur. There, it will break off.
The issue of weak buried layers has been a major one this season. Forecasters have compared the potential for avalanches this year to that of 2003, when 29 people died across Canada.
On Saturday, Avalanche Canada said conditions were particularly bad around Valemount. It said it had received numerous reports of large human and remote triggered avalanches throughout the day, and warned people to choose safer terrain.
🧵We’re hearing reports of a serious avalanche accident in the Oasis snowmobiling area and further reports of numerous large human-triggered and remotely triggered avalanches in the mountains around the Valemount region. This is a dangerous snowpack and..
📷 Allan Creek on Friday pic.twitter.com/1T2GDNfimK
— Avalanche Canada (@avalancheca) January 22, 2023
In B.C. so far this season, three people have now died from avalanches. The first two were Nelson police officers, who were caught in an avalanche near Kaslo on Jan. 9. Const. Wade Tittemore was buried and died on the mountain, while Const. Mathieu Nolet made it to hospital and was expected to survive, but died on Jan. 21.