Skiers survive avalanches in K-Country, Banff
Thursday, Nov 23, 2017 06:00 am
Several people are lucky to be alive after being swept away in two separate avalanches on the weekend – one in Kananaskis Country, the other in Banff National Park.
Public safety specialists are warning that recent strong winds with lots of new snow has heightened the avalanche hazard in the region and advise now is a good time to avoid avalanche terrain.
In the Kananaskis incident, three Calgarians out ski touring triggered a size 2 avalanche while boot packing up a gully on the south side of Mount Arethusa in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Saturday (Nov. 18).
Rescuers say one skier got out of the way of the thundering avalanche, while the other two were swept 250 metres down the mountain, leaving one fully buried and the other partially buried.
They say the buried skier was dug out by his two friends, noting that all skiers were wearing beacons and had shovels and probes. He was taken to a Calgary hospital in serious condition, while the skier who was partially buried had minor injuries.
“It definitely could have been much worse,” said Jeremy Mackenzie, a public safety specialist for Kananaskis Country.
“It’s quite typical that someone dies in an avalanche in the early season in the Rockies, and this one shows how close it was.”
Suffering from what was said to be numerous traumatic injuries, the skier, a 37-year-old man from Calgary, was stabilized as best as his friends could before rescuers arrived at the scene.
He was taken down the mountain to a waiting Alpine Helicopters craft. He was later transferred to a Calgary’s Foothills Hospital by STARS air ambulance. He was in serious, but stable condition.
Mackenzie said the snow pack is still very shallow.
“When he was taken down the mountain, there were a number of rocks along the way,” he said. “That was one of the contributing factors to his injuries.”
Meanwhile, a party of two skiers on the east slope of Crowfoot Glacier near Bow Lake in Banff National Park were also caught up in a size 2 avalanche, but both managed to walk away with minor injuries. One was fully buried, while the other was partially buried.
Parks Canada rescuers were called to the scene, but the two skiers were able to self-rescue and the response was called off. There were whiteout conditions at the time.
“They were able to self-extricate,” said Christie Thomson, a spokesperson for Parks Canada.
Public safety specialists remind skiers and climbers to take all the necessary precautions during avalanche season.
“It’s time to carry all the avalanche safety gear and know how to use it, and make sure to check the avalanche bulletin and weather forecasts,” said Mackenzie.
For terrain conditions, visit Avalanche Canada at www.avalanche.ca.