RCMP confirmed at least one person has died and several seriously injured following an avalanche in the B.C. Interior on Wednesday.
Cpl. James Grandy did not have specific numbers, saying more information will be available in the morning.
He said emergency crews responded around 12:40 p.m. to reports of an avalanche that happened around noon in the area of Panorama Mountain Resort along the B.C.-Alberta border, about a 300-kilometre drive west of Calgary.
The initial report was that multiple people heli-skiing in the area may have been caught by the avalanche.
B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) said four people were taken to hospital following the avalanche.
A spokesperson for the resort said the avalanche occurred outside of its boundaries, but it closed some of its upper lifts in order to support rescue personnel.
BCEHS did not confirm the condition of those transported to hospital or where they were taken, but the community of Invermere, B.C., is just 20 kilometres northeast of the resort.
Highly volatile season
So far, there have been nine avalanche fatalities in B.C. in 2023, including a search-and-rescue volunteer killed alongside another skier in the Chilcotin region, two off-duty officers with the Nelson Police Department who were on a ski trip near Kaslo and two brothers from Pennsylvania who were on a guided heli-skiing trip in B.C.’s Interior.
Avalanche Canada has compared this season’s snowpack with conditions last seen in the winter of 2002-2003, when 25 people lost their lives in B.C.’s backcountry, making it one of the province’s worst years on record for avalanche fatalities.
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Forecasters say this year’s snowpack, with a weak layer of sugar-like crystals buried near the bottom, is to blame for the dangerous conditions.
People heading into the backcountry are urged to check the avalanche forecast and make conservative decisions about which terrain they choose to explore. An avalanche transceiver, snow probe and snow shovel are essential, along with practice in their use, according to officials.
A timeline of avalanche events this season
Dec. 31: A skier suffers life-threatening injuries in a slide near Emerald Lake in southeast B.C., near the Alberta border, Avalanche Canada says in a report.
Jan. 5: Avalanche Canada warns of a touchy snowpack, with various weak layers created by long periods of drought and cold weather.
“Riders have triggered large, scary avalanches with high consequences,” the advisory says.
Jan. 9: Two off-duty police officers are caught up in an avalanche near Kaslo, B.C., while backcountry skiing. Nelson Police Service Const. Wade Tittemore, 43, dies and Const. Mathieu Nolet, 28, sustains severe internal injuries.
Jan. 21: Nolet dies of his injuries in hospital.
Jan. 21: Two snowmobilers riding at the base of a slope near Valemount, B.C., accidentally trigger an avalanche from above, sending a slab of snow onto one rider while the other escapes. The buried rider is found unresponsive and dies.
Jan. 23: Heli-skiers and their guide are caught in an avalanche near Revelstoke, B.C. The two guests, brothers and American businessmen Jon and Tim Kinsley, are dug out of the snow unresponsive and declared dead in hospital. The guide is taken to hospital in stable condition.
Jan. 23: A slide comes down on one person near Cherryville, B.C. Emergency health services say the person is taken to hospital with undetermined injuries.
Feb. 11: Two skiers are caught in an avalanche on Potato Peak, 175 kilometres southeast of Prince George. Both victims were buried alive and were found deceased by search-and-rescue crews. One of those killed is identified as an off-duty member of the local search and rescue team.
Feb. 16: Three people are buried in an avalanche triggered outside of a ski-area boundary near Golden, B.C. One is partially buried and extracted, while two are fully buried and do not survive.
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