Name of avalanche victim not yet released

One dead in Heallroaring avalanche, back country skier caught in slide near Revelstoke

A snowmobile caught by the Hellroaring avalanche.

A snowmobile caught by the Hellroaring avalanche.

At press time, the name of the victim of this past weekend’s avalanche had not been released.

BC Coroners Services Communications Officer Barb McLintock said that next of kin were still being informed on Monday.

One man died when a group of snowmobilers were caught in an avalanche in the Hellroaring area up the St. Mary Valley on Saturday. This was the same area as an avalanche four years ago which took the life of another Kimberley snowmobiler.

Avalanche conditions at the time of the deadly slide were listed as Considerable by the Canadian Avalanche Centre.

A Considerable rating means dangerous avalanche conditions with careful snowpack evaluation required, cautious route finding and conservative decision making essential. It also means natural avalanches are likely and human-triggered avalanches very likely.

What was concerning forecasters at the Canadian Avalanche Centre in Revelstoke about conditions over last weekend was a deeply buried layer of weaker snow about a metre below surface.

Tom Riley, an avalanche forecaster with the CAC says the layer formed in cool, clear weather in early March and was then covered during snowfall around March 10.

“We call it a persistent weak layer,” Riley said. “The snow crystals stand up almost like little feathers and any sideways force — they fold. Then in some cases there is a crust over top. When the layer fails, it fails over a wide area. That’s what we believe happened here.”

Riley says that these particular snow conditions are tricky and backcountry users have to be aware that they exist.

“It does put a lot of onus on the user. They need to understand that these conditions may not be present everywhere, but just in certain drainages.”

Riley says the avalanche near Hellroaring would be rated a 3.

A backcountry skier near Revelstoke was also caught by an avalanche this weekend and did not survive.

At approximately 4 p.m. on Sunday March 24th, 2013, Revelstoke RCMPolice and Parks Canada, Glacier National Park, were advised of an avalanche at Sifton Col, in Glacier National Park.

A 38 year old Revelstokian was testing the conditions in the bowl while the other two skiers waited near the top of the ridge. At approximately 2 p.m. an avalanche was triggered which buried him. His friends were able to dig him out, one stayed behind to apply CPR while the other skied back to Parks Canada at Rogers Pass for help.

Parks Canada’s team of visitor safety and avalanche technicians responded immediately by helicopter. The male was not responding to CPR attempts and had succumbed at the scene. The remainder of the party was safely extracted by helicopter.

Revelstoke RCMPolice, Revelstoke Victim Services and the BC Coroners Service were on hand to assist with the investigation. Police are not releasing the name of the skier.

The avalanche was rated as a size 2.5 with a hazard rating in the alpine as considerable.