By Lachlan Labere, Black Press
A day of recreation in the snow-covered mountains of Glacier National Park was cut short for two men after they were caught in an avalanche on Sunday.
The avalanche occurred on Bruins Ridge in the Connaught drainage at approximately 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 8. Glacier National Park visitor safety technician Percy Woods said it was triggered by a skier, who was with another man on a snowboard. The boarder was about two-thirds of the way down the slope when the skier began his descent.
“The skier entered the slope, made a couple of turns, made a turn to the right past a boulder feature and then turned back down the fall line, and when he turned back down the fall line, the avalanche started and he was taken off his feet,” reported Woods. “He slid for approximately 150- to 200-meters… and he was swimming, backstroking his way down in the avalanche debris, which probably assisted with him staying on the surface. He stayed on the surface, was not buried and lost a ski.”
The snowboarder was also caught in the avalanche and slid a similar distance, ending up face down, head pointing down the slope, but with one hand above the snow. He was able to dig himself out and didn’t lose his board.
Woods said the avalanche is estimated to have been 500-metres wide, 50-to 100-centimetres deep at the crown, and ran for about 700 to 900 metres.
Woods said there were plenty of other skiers in the area, including a group of five that contained two ski guides with the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. They came to assist the two men — the skier first and then the snowboarder. After confirming the two were OK, they group continued to search the avalanche debris for anyone else who may have got caught up in it. Shortly after, they began assisting the two men down to Rogers Pass.
Woods said he received a report of the avalanche at 2:45 p.m., and a crew was in the process of gearing up when it was reported the two men were OK.
“It was decided after they searched through the debris that there was no other involvements and we cancelled our response,” said Woods. “A short time later… one of the ski guides called us back to tell us the two were having a hard time making it down slope because the one had lost a ski and they were shook up after the incident. We had a helicopter from Alpine Helicopters in Golden fly to the scene and fly the two people out to Rogers Pass.”
Woods said the two men were uninjured. He warns that it’s still early season conditions out there, especially at and below the tree line.
“So you want to be controlling your speed and watching out for hidden hazards and also, slow down and carefully evaluate terrain before jumping into it,” said Woods.
The avalanche danger in Glacier is currently rated “considerable” in the alpine. Up to date conditions at Glacier National Park can be found at http://avalanche.pc.gc.ca/bulletin-eng.aspx?r=3&d=TODAY. Avalanche forecasts and other information for the province can be found at www.avalanche.ca.