Snowboarders rescued near Sunshine

By: Dave Whitfield

  |  Posted: Thursday, Mar 08, 2012 06:00 am

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Two snowboarders spent a cold night waiting for rescue after losing their way in searching for prime snow near Sunshine last weekend.

On Friday, the pair, one man from Calgary and another from Halifax, left Sunshine to head toward an area known as the Wizard, “but they ended up quite a way down the ridge,” said Parks Visitor Safety Specialist Marc Ledwidge. “They were two or three kilometres away on tricky terrain.”

Very fortunately for the boarders, they found themselves in an area where there was cell phone coverage and were able to call 911 at about 4 p.m.

Rescuers first tried to use a helicopter to get close enough for a long-line rescue, “but there were violent winds and we had to bring the team back,” said Ledwidge.

A team headed for the boarders on skis in the dark at about 7 p.m. and tried to manoeuvre into an area above the skiers, but that team as well had to turn back to the possibility of triggering an avanlance above the two skiers. At the time, the avalanche warning scale was pegged at high.

After the aborted attempt in the dark, the boarders, who had no GPS or safety gear, said Ledwidge had to spend the night and wait for a Saturday morning rescue attempt.

On Saturday, though, wind and weather were worse, which again meant no helicopter attempt. Safety specialists then skied up Healy Creek to a frozen waterfall, which they believed they could climb up to the boarders. Again, though, said Ledwidge, safety concerns caused the rescue team to turn back.

Finally, at midday on Saturday, specialists were able to use snowmobiles to get close to the stranded boarders, then skied to them and lowered them by rope to the valley bottom, where they were taken out by a Sunshine snowmobile.

“They were cold and wet, but no frostbite or injuries,” said Ledwidge. “But it could have been quite different if there wasn’t cell phone coverage where they were.”

On Wednesday (March 7), the avalanche risk for alpine and treeline area remained high for Banff, Yoho and Kootenay Parks and through Kananaskis Country.

Parks Canada urges outdoor enthusiasts to make informed decisions when travelling into the backcountry and to be prepared with proper equipment and check avalanche and weather forecasts regularly. The Avalanche Bulletin for Banff, Kootenay and Yoho National Parks may be found at http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/banff/index.aspx


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