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Snowmobiler dies in avalanche near Valemount

A man died in an avalanche while snowmobiling in the Clemina area south of Valemount on Friday, Dec. 30. - Google Earth
A man died in an avalanche while snowmobiling in the Clemina area south of Valemount on Friday, Dec. 30.
— image credit: Google Earth

A forecaster for Avalanche Canada is advising people to be very careful when putting more than one person on a slope after a snowmobiler died in an avalanche near Valemount on Friday.

RCMP say the avalanche took place in the Clemina area in the Monashee Mountains 20 kilometres southeast of Valemount on Dec. 30.

According to a blog post by Ilya Storm, a forecaster with Avalanche Canada, preliminary reports indicate one rider was digging out his stuck snowmobile when two other sledders passed above him in order to help, triggering the avalanche.

Storm wrote that all three were caught in the slide, but only one was fully buried.

The victim could not be removed from the mountain right away because of the unstable slope conditions. The local Search & Recue called in help from avalanche technicians in Jasper National Park before recovering the body.

In his post, Storm said the lesson to be learned from the incident is to minimize the number of people exposed to avalanche hazard. 90 to 95 per cent of deadly avalanches are triggered by either the victim or someone in his group.

"Minimizing the number of people exposed to a hazard is a basic tenet of good risk management, but it's often easier said than done," he wrote. "A skier falls, loses their ski, and three people spend 10 minutes looking for it in the deep powder. Or a sledder gets stuck on a slope and two people come in to help, resulting in three people on the slope at once. People trigger avalanches, and are injured or killed by the avalanches they start."

He wrote that people should be prepared to help themselves if they run into a problem on an avalanche slope, and that group members should sit back in the meantime to minimize exposure.

"Sledding is a social sport with big groups, many groups riding the same areas, and the ability to cover a huge amount of terrain in a short time," Storm wrote. "People shouldn't ride the same or closely connected slopes when someone's stuck, regardless of whether they're part of your group or not."

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