Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2004-04-09
Submitted By: WWAN
Place: The Vice President, in Yoho National Park
State: BC
Country: CANADA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 1 skier caught in cornice fall, buried, and killed

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Avalanche victim was from Montana

Calgary Herald

Sunday, April 11, 2004

RCMP in Golden, B.C., continue to investigate the death of a 23-year-old American man who was swept off a mountain ridge by an avalanche on Friday.

The Kalispell, Mont., man was part of a small group of experienced skiers on the Vice President, a popular backcountry skiing destination in Little Yoho Valley, when the avalanche struck at about 4 p.m.

The man was standing apart from the party on top of a cornice when it broke off. He fell and was carried more than 600 metres down the mountain.

"It's pretty treacherous terrain," said Const. Mitch Mercier of the Golden RCMP, which was taking statements Saturday from those in the skiing party.

Nobody else was hurt.

The party, comprised of five or six members from both the U.S. and Canada, had a satellite phone and was able to call for help.

Six park wardens and two rescue dogs in two helicopters were dispatched to the area and were able to recover the man's body, which was buried under 60 centimetres of snow.

National parks spokeswoman Shelley Humphries said the man was located by an avalanche beacon suspended below one of the helicopters.

"He was wearing avalanche equipment, so it was easy for us to locate him once we got there," she said. "He fell a really long way."

The Vice President, in Yoho National Park, is accessible by a 23-kilometre ski trail starting at the Takakkaw Falls road, near Field, B.C.

Many people visiting the area choose to stay at the Stanley Mitchell Hut, operated by the Alpine Club of Canada.

It's not known how long the man had been visiting the area.

At the time of the man's death, the avalanche risk was low, though daytime warming was creating some instability.

"At this time of year, people have to be cognizant of where they ski with respect to solar aspects -- where the sun is shining," said Humphries.

The man's name has been withheld pending notification of next of kin.

An autopsy will be held in Vernon, B.C., early this week.

smcginnis@theherald.canwest.com

? The Calgary Herald 2004