Detailed Accident Report
Submitted By: WWAN
Place: Mount Carlyle near Kaslo, 30 miles north of the Canadian border near Idaho.
Summary: Three backcountry skiers caught and killed
Avalanche kills 3 from Seattle area
By Seattle Times staff and The Associated Press
Three backcountry skiers from the Seattle area have been killed in an avalanche in southeastern British Columbia, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
The victims were Susan Majeski McKnight, 53, of Lake Forest Park and Georgia Lynne Bakke, 42, and Lawrence Gordon Duff, 54, both of Edmonds, RCMP Sgt. Randy Koch said late last night.
The three were among a party of five skiers Monday afternoon who had been heading down Mount Carlyle near Kaslo, 30 miles north of the Canadian border near Idaho.
The group was staying at the Kootenay Mountain Huts, a popular destination for backcountry skiers 7,000 feet up Mount Carlyle. It is about six miles north of Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park.
The area is in the tree line, very rugged and remote, Koch said, but the skiers were skiing in an open, treeless area.
According to the RCMP, the five skiers were around 6,000 feet, descending the steep slope of Mount Carlyle single-file, to lessen the danger of an avalanche.
McKnight, Bakke and Duff descended safely, Koch said. The fourth skier triggered a Class 3 avalanche, measuring approximately 700 yards long and 200 yards wide, which buried the first three skiers below him.
The fourth skier was able to ski out of danger, and the fifth skied down after.
The two dug out the bodies, which took about two hours, and then returned to their cabin half a mile away to notify police via radiotelephone. The bodies were recovered yesterday and taken to Trail, B.C., southwest of Nelson.
Koch said the skiers all carried transceivers, shovels and 8-foot telescopic probes ? equipment used for escaping or rescue from avalanches.
"Every indication was that they were prepared, experienced backcountry enthusiasts," Koch said.
Avalanche danger at the time was rated as "considerable."
Two other people have been killed in B.C. avalanches this season: a skier from the United States and a Canadian snowmobiler.
Seattle Times staff reporters Caitlin Cleary and Sara Jean Green contributed to this report.
Three Washington state skiers killed in West
Wednesday, January 30, 2002
KASLO -- Three people killed by
a massive avalanche in the West
Kootenays Monday ignored
warnings about dangerous snow
conditions in the area they were
skiing, according to an employee
of a company that rented them a
"They opted to go non-guided.
We were telling them the
avalanche risk was high and they
still went out," said Karin Wahlstrom, an employee at
Kootenay Mountain Huts.
Eight skiers from western Washington State took a
helicopter to a hut on Mount Carlyle Sunday for a week
of ski touring. The hut is located at an elevation of about
2,100 metres about 16 kilometres west of Kaslo and 10
kilometres north of the northern boundary of Kokanee
Glacier Provincial Park.
About 2:45 p.m. Monday, five of the eight left the hut to
ski down the slopes of the mountain.
According to RCMP spokesman Sergeant Randy Koch,
the skiers were travelling down the mountain single file
when the fourth skier's weight triggered an avalanche that
buried the three skiers who had gone before him.
The three buried skiers were equipped with avalanche
beacons that helped their two friends locate them. The
two spent two hours using their shovels to dig their
friends out of the snow.
"They had done an exceptional job of self-rescue," said
local coroner Bob Stair. "The burials were deep. "In my
opinion, their work was extraordinary."
But it was too late. All three were already dead.
The two survivors travelled back up to the hut, where
they contacted police by radio phone about 6:40 p.m.
It was too dark Monday night to recover the bodies, so
police and the coroner's service waited until Tuesday
morning to retrieve the bodies from the mountain.
All three bodies have been taken to Trail, where they are
expected to undergo autopsies today.
Koch said the group was well prepared and had all the
"They were doing all the right things, as far as testing and
snow profiles. They were carrying the required gear, the
transceivers (beacons) and the probes and those types of
things," he said.
"There is every indication this group was experienced in
the backcountry and thought that they could go out and ski
the areas on their own."
The Canadian Avalanche Association, based in
Revelstoke, had warned that heavy snowfall in the
preceding days had made the risk of an avalanche in the
Kootenays this week "considerable."
The association uses a five-point danger scale. A rating
of "considerable" is in the middle, below "high" and
Evan Manners, president of the association, said his
group had actually downgraded its avalanche warning to
considerable from high over the weekend as conditions
on the mountain settled somewhat.
The eight skiers were staying in a hut on Mount Carlyle
run by Kootenay Mountain Huts. But Koch said the
Americans were not accompanied by a guide.
Wahlstrom said there were good, safe ski touring options
around the cabin, but the group of five decided go off on
their own without telling the cabin custodian of their
She said there had been several recent small snow
releases and extremely high winds in the area.
"The group was aware of this," she said.
Stair, a back-country skier himself, described the
avalanche that killed the three skiers as "a very large
class 3 avalanche -- which is a very, very big avalanche
... it was a huge avalanche that had a horrific force."
Stair said avalanche technicians at the scene estimated
the depth of the snow that fell away from the mountain at
only about 50 to 70 centimetres deep. But he said the
avalanche covered such a wide area that "the volume of
snow that came down the slope was huge."
Wendy Rockafellow, who guides backcountry ski touring
and ski mountaineering expeditions in Alberta, B.C and
the Yukon, said the area in which the avalanche occurred
is popular with backcountry skiers.
"It's got lots of snow, which is why they got caught in the
avalanche. They just had a huge amount of snow. Calgary
saw a little bit of it, but they probably got five times as
much over there," Rockafellow said.
"Technically, they were probably quite good skiers. They
were probably extremely fit -- it's not an easy place to
get into. And they also probably misread how unstable
the conditions are right now -- that comes from a lot of
She said skiers need to pick their terrain wisely and
manage their group well when the avalanche risk is
"If [the avalanche risk is] considerable, and you're just
there for a good time, then maybe you need to re-evaluate
your goals of the day and maybe not go to such a big
place or work on other skills."