Detailed Accident Report
Submitted By: WWAN
Place: Somewhere near Pemberton, BC
Summary: 3 skiers caught and buried, 2 rescued, 1 killed
An Official report will be posted from the CAA
When it is submitted.
Slide kills biathlon champion
JAY POSS Winner of '97 national title died while heli-skiing.
Staff And Wire Reports
(Published: January 27, 2002)
Pemberton, British Columbia -- A former national biathlon champion from Anchorage died Friday in an
avalanche while heli-skiing north of Vancouver.
Jay Poss, a 1989 graduate of Dimond High, was killed, according to Marten Martensen, a friend of
Chief Russell Mack of the Pemberton Fire Department said the slide trapped at least two other people
who escaped unharmed.
Mack assisted ambulance crews when they returned to the Pemberton heliport with the body. Poss'
name was not released Friday, but Martensen said he and his wife were notified of the death by
members of the Poss family.
"There were three people caught in the avalanche, but the other two individuals were dug out fairly
quickly," Mack said. "When they flew in on the second chopper, they walked away, so they didn't need
any medical attention."
Poss was a former national biathlon champion who narrowly missed making the 1994 Winter Olympic
team. He won his national title in January 1997, becoming the first Alaskan to do so in more than a
In July 1997, Poss suffered numerous injuries, including a broken back, in a paragliding accident at
Hatcher Pass. He made a tremendous recovery, and even though he never again competed nationally,
he continued to ski and enjoy the outdoors.
"Since his accident, Jay had gotten into Alpine skiing because he no longer Nordic skied too well,"
Martensen said. "He became an avid Alpine skier, and heli-skiing would be right up his alley."
Poss was part of a group that had flown out with Cayoosh Helisports, a Pemberton company that offers
heli-skiing trips, as well as helicopter charters and snowmobile tours.
Cayoosh Helisports owner John Goats had no comment Friday on the accident and referred all calls to
the coroner's office.
Weather in the region, about 90 miles north of Vancouver, had been unstable, with forecasters issuing
a heavy snowfall warning throughout the coast.
British Columbia's avalanche center had issued high alerts for potential avalanches throughout the
south coast and the south Columbia region.
Many avalanches have occurred during the past several days in the coastal and Cariboo regions.
The heavy snow also forced the closure of the Coquihalla Highway on Thursday night. The highway
Two others 'dug out fairly quickly'
Saturday, January 26, 2002
An avalanche claimed the life of
a man who was heli-skiing in the
Birkenhead area north of
Pemberton on Friday.
Chief Russell Mack of the
Pemberton fire department said
the slide trapped at least two
other people who escaped
unharmed. Mack assisted
ambulance crews when they
returned to the Pemberton heliport
with the body.
"There were three people caught
in the avalanche, but the other two
individuals were dug out fairly
quickly," he said. "When they
flew in on the second chopper,
they walked away, so they didn't
need any [medical] attention."
The party had flown out with
Cayoosh Helisports, a Pemberton company that offers
heli-skiing trips, as well as helicopter charters and
Mack said the fire department was called just before
12:30 p.m., and when he arrived at the heliport, he saw
the victim, a guide and another person come in on the
A second helicopter flew in the remaining members of
the party, which Mack said included two other skiers and
might have included a second guide.
Cayoosh Helisports and its owner, John Goats, had no
comment on the accident and referred all calls to the
Brian Pothier, the coroner's agent for the Sea to Sky
corridor, including Pemberton, said no details would be
released until the victim's family was notified.
According to its Web site, Cayoosh Helisports offers
heli-skiing packages starting at $669. The company's
Web site says all of its guides are certified and have
"years of experience." It also states that all its guests
must sign "a comprehensive release acknowledging and
assuming the inherent risks involved with the heli-ski
It also states that weather can dictate if heli-skiing
packages can be cleared for takeoff.
Weather in the region had been unstable, with the Pacific
Weather Centre issuing a heavy snowfall warning
throughout the coast and the province's avalanche centre
putting out high alerts for potential avalanches throughout
the south coast and the south Columbia region.
"The entire coast will be under this unstable air mass,"
said meteorologist Aaron McCay of Environment
Canada's Pacific weather centre. "Some places will have
two to four centimetres of snow."
The avalanche centre's Web site warns of varying
amounts of storm snow load.
The site, which is updated regularly, with avalanche
bulletins, said a variable snowpack, considerable storm
snow load and moderate to high winds have caused high
risks of avalanches.
"We can expect natural and human triggered avalanches
to occur on many slopes, at least until the present frontal
wave passes through," the Web site said.
Many avalanches, indeed, have occurred over the past
several days in the coastal and Cariboo regions.
The heavy snow also forced the closure of the
Coquihalla Highway Thursday night, with 52 centimetres
falling over a 36-hour period and high winds reducing
visibility. The highway reopened Friday morning.