Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2001-02-07
Submitted By: Frank W. Baumann
Place: Brandywine Falls area, near Whistler
State: BC
Country: CANADA
Summary: 1 snowmobiler caught, back broken

From the Vancouver Sun

Avalanche injures woman skier

28-year-old was swept down a mountain near Brandywine Falls

Sarah Galashan Vancouver Sun

A 28-year-old skier was airlifted to hospital Tuesday after a surface avalanche swept down a

mountain face in a backcountry area southwest of Whistler village.

The injured woman was one of five skiers who intended to ski down an ungroomed mountain

area near Brandywine Falls Tuesday during a backcountry ski trip.

"The top foot and a half of snow swept her down the mountain into a clump of trees," said

Sergeant Wayne Mossman of the Whistler RCMP.

Ambulances were the first to respond to the distress call mid-afternoon, but were unable to

reach the woman, who was stuck in a remote mountain area, commonly known as the

Chocolate Bowl.

After several hours, a search and rescue helicopter lowered an aerial platform tied to a 30-metre

(100-foot) cable. The woman was taken to another nearby helicopter and flown to the Whistler

medical centre.

When her condition was stabilized, she was airlifted to Vancouver Hospital for advanced

medical care. Her injuries were confined to her back, but no further information about them

was released.

The woman's name will not be made public until her next of kin are notified.

The Chocolate Bowl is a backcountry hot spot for snowmobilers and skiers.

Tuesday's skiers were driven up the mountain on at least one privately owned snowmobile and

planned to ski down, meeting the vehicle at a designated base.

Don Gamache, a member of the Powder Mountain Snowmobile Club, said this activity has

become popular among young adults who see it as a cheaper alternative to pricey annual passes

at area ski resorts.

He also said snowmobilers visit the Chocolate Bowl daily.

"There was a huge number of people playing in the back country [Tuesday]," said Gamache,

referring to the area's mild sunny weather conditions that day.

But Gamache, an experienced snowmobiler, said the avalanche forecast of medium to

considerable should serve as a warning to people going to unregulated mountain areas.

"It's an incline, it has snow on it," said Gamache. "Sometimes it sticks and sometimes it

doesn't."

Last spring, Darren Proctor, 28, was killed in a similar misadventure. He was caught in an

avalanche while snowboarding in the backcountry on Power Mountain near Grizzly Lake, just

south of Whistler.

The slide apparently ran on a layer of faceted crystals within the lower portion of the snowpack. The unusually dangerous condtions have been the subject of numerous warnings, and more slides are likely to occur as new snow adds more weight to this weak layer.

Frank W. Baumann

From the Canadian NewsWire

Snowmobiler Caught In Avalanche Near

Whistler

Rough Terrain Made Rescue Difficult

WHISTLER, B.C., 8:57 a.m. PST

February 7, 2001 --A 28-year-old woman

who was caught in an avalanche near

Whistler has been airlifted to Vancouver

General Hospital and is being treated for a

broken back.

She was caught in an

avalanche in the

Bandywine Falls area near

Whistler Tuesday

afternoon.

The RCMP said paramedics had a hard time

extracting the woman because of rough

terrain.

The victim was snowmobiling in the Brandywine Falls area

with a group when the slide hit. She was dragged about 80

metres before she came to a stop in the trees.

She was eventually airlifted to the Whistler Medical Centre

before being flown to Vancouver.