A particularly dangerous year for avalanches, Search and Rescue member says

Snowmobiler dies after being caught by avalanche near Gray Crek Pass; second snowmobiler survives

  • Mar. 12, 2014 8:00 a.m.
A Bighorn helicopter sits just below the slide path of the avalanche near Gray Creek Pass.

A Bighorn helicopter sits just below the slide path of the avalanche near Gray Creek Pass.

CAROLYN GRANT/Daily Bulletin

One man is dead following an avalanche just above the Gray Creek Pass on Tuesday afternoon.

Peter Reid from Kimberley Search and Rescue says that both the Nelson and Kimberley search and rescue units responded.

“It appears that a father and his son-in-law went for a sled ride up in the Gray Creek Pass area,” Reid said. “They were on a spur road, and went to turn their sleds around and triggered an avalanche. The father managed to get out and went down to Crawford Bay to call 911. The other was completely involved.”

Reid says Nelson SAR was on the scene in about 15 minutes. It took Kimberley 45 minutes as they had to wait for a helicopter to come from Fernie.

“It took about an hour for the Nelson unit to locate the man,” Reid said. “They located him from a RECO device on his sled. He was right beside his sled, less than a metre deep.”

RECO devices, Reid says, are reflectors sewn into snowmobile clothing and located on sleds. Search and Rescue units and ski patrols are given the detectors.

“We use it when we know the subject doesn’t have a beacon,” Reid said.

Despite the victim being found only a meter deep, Nelson SAR members were unable to resuscitate him and he was pronounced deceased once he was transported to Nelson.

The BC Coroners Service had not yet released the name of the victim at press time.

Reid says the avalanche was not a particularly large one, perhaps 400 m wide and 600 m deep.

“It wasn’t that big. I might class it as a 1.5 or 2. It was a cut block facing west and they were  parked underneath it. Just the open cut block slid. They might have thought they were safe there but everything is dangerous. Just because you are on a logging road doesn’t mean you are safe. Logging roads go through avalanche terrain.”

Reid says avalanche terrain is particularly dangerous this year and he believes that sometimes people see a rating of “considerable” from the Avalanche Centre and think that means it’s okay.

“People think considerable means safe, but it means avalanches are likely and human-triggered avalanches are very likely. People are misjudging what considerable means. There has been lots of discussion about maybe changing the word.

“There is also the thought that ‘it can’t happen to me’ or ‘I’ve been sledding up here for years and it’s always been safe’. This year it isn’t.”

Kimberley SAR has a snocat, but Reid says they wouldn’t take it out on a rescue right now because it’s too dangerous.

“We are seeing slides taking out old growth, not just in cut blocks. That Revelstoke slide this week was massive.”

He says that Kimberley and Cranbrook SAR units have built a snow study pit behind the ski hill.

“Basically you’ve got ball bearings under a snow pack. It takes quite a bit to trigger it — a skier might not, but a snowmobile would. But when it rips, it’s big.”

Reid urges backcountry users to take a good look at avalanche conditions, and if they must go out, go out prepared because it is unlikely rescue teams will reach you in time.

“Avalanche response is recovery,” he said. “You need to save yourself. We can’t respond fast enough.”

Just Posted

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League met for their AGM and announced a number of new initiatives, new awards and changes in their executive committee, as well as the starting date for the 2021-22 season. Paul Rodgers file.
KIJHL announces start dates for 2021-22 season

Season set to begin Oct. 1 with league still following all health guidelines

Calvin Dickson photo.
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for East Kootenay

Conditions favourable for the development of thunderstorms, hail and heavy rain

The Independent Investigations Office of BC is looking into a Castlegar incident. File photo
Police watchdog investigating Castlegar incident

IIO: Woman sustained a reportedly self-inflicted injury

Mount Baker Secondary School in Cranbrook.
Graduation ceremony in the works for MBSS Class of 2021

The Mount Bake Secondary School Class of 2021 will have a graduation… Continue reading

After being forced to cancel in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Wasa Triathlon is being organized for August. Bulletin file photo.
Information released for Gerick Sports Wasa Triathlon scheduled for August

In 2020 the COVID pandemic forced the Gerick Sports Wasa Triathlon to… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Most Read