REVELSTOKE – A size 2.5 avalanche in an out-of-bounds area at Revelstoke Mountain Resort buried a snowboarder at about 1:15 p.m. on Sunday.
The man has been rescued from the slide and is reported to have suffered only minor injuries to his shoulder, despite being buried for about 24 minutes. He is being treated in hospital. It has now been confirmed the man was the only person buried in the slide.
Revelstoke Mountain Resort spokesperson Ashley Tait says the man is lucky.
The slide was originally reported as unwitnessed, meaning someone noted a recent slide but no eyewitness reported seeing it happen, or could say whether anyone was involved.
Patrollers from the resort sprung into action soon after the slide, searching for any potential victims.
Luckily for the 28-year-old Revelstoke snowboarder, he was wearing an avalanche beacon, which was used to locate him.
“We’re very proud of the work that our staff did today,” said Revelstoke Mountain Resort spokesperson Ashley Tait. “They did an incredible job and the person that is involved in the incident is incredibly lucky that he was looked after by such an incredible team.”
Revelstoke RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Rod Wiebe also said the man “was very lucky to escape with his life and only suffered some bumps and bruises.
“This was a very close call so police would like to emphasize the need to check avalanche conditions and heed the warnings,” said Wiebe.
Both Tait and Wiebe described the basic details of the incident to the Times Review. Some details are still emerging.
If appears the individual was amongst a group of four snowboarders who ducked the boundary ropes and went riding out-of-bounds to the the Mackenzie Face in the Greeley Bowl area.
The group was standing near “Door 4,” a chute on the steep Mackenzie Face leading into the bowl area, planning their ride down when a cornice gave way. It swept one of the men down with it.
This triggered a larger slide that brought down all the snow that had accumulated atop a rain crust formed in November, 2010.
The Mackenzie Face is at the peak of Mount Mackenzie, and looms over the Greeley Bowl area. A boundary rope divides the Greeley Bowl in two, including in-bounds and out-of-bounds areas. The out-of-bounds area where the slide was reportedly triggered can be accessed only by hiking to it.
The primary rescue was done by Revelstoke Mountain Resort patrollers. Both RMR patrol dogs and CARDA dogs assisted during the incident, including in a subsequent sweep following the initial rescue.
Revelstoke Search & Rescue also aided in the rescue, arriving via helicopter. They transported the man out of the area after landing near the scene.
The avalanche rating in that alpine area was listed as ‘considerable’ on Sunday. The resort’s snowpack report warned skiers to “watch for cornices and isolated wind slabs at ridge tops.”
During the rescue, patrollers expressed concern about another group of several individuals who were standing atop the Mackenzie Face ridge above the slide, worrying they might trigger another slide as the searchers combed through the avalanche debris.
Tait told the Times Review that patrollers only later came into contact with the buried rider’s group, and were continuing to interview them. She said the exact details were still emerging, so it can’t be confirmed that group atop the ridge were the buried rider’s companions.
Revelstoke Mountain Resort was hosting their annual avalanche awareness days on Jan. 22–23. Wiebe said this also helped with the rescue, as more experts than usual were on hand. “The Canadian Avalanche Association’s most recent bulletin had urged recreational backcountry users to stay away from large, steep complex slopes,” said Wiebe. “Out-of-bounds areas at RMR are considered backcountry.”
The Revelstoke-based Canadian Avalanche Centre had issued a special avalanche warning for the weekend for much of southern and central B.C.
Tait emphasized that the positive outcome resulted from more than good luck, saying she was “very proud of the work that our staff did today.”
The in-bounds area near the slide will be closed tomorrow morning so further follow-up work can be done.
Update, Jan. 25 1 p.m.
Some initial confusion over how the avalanche was first discovered has been cleared up.
Revelstoke Mountain Resort spokesperson Ashley Tait says a snow cloud created by the slide was spotted by an RMR patrol team who were near the area teaching an avalanche skills course. They went to investigate and then rescued the man.
Meanwhile, the three companions who were with the snowboarder returned back down the route they had hiked up in order to inform patrollers.
The two parties did not initially meet.