Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2005-01-18
Submitted By: WWAN
Place: West Twin Creek in the Selkirk mountains
State: BC
Country: CANADA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 3 skiers caught, 1 injured, 1 killed


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Canadian Avalanche Centre Accident Information

The following is the information that the CAC has received so far regarding the January 18 avalanche in the Selkirk Mountains.

West Twin Creek ? January 18, 2005

A size 2 avalanche occurred on a southwest facing slope below treeline at 2080m in the

West Twin creek drainage (grid reference: 347491) of the Selkirks, 18 km east of

Revelstoke, BC.

A group of 10 skiers were descending a slope; all were equipped with avalanche

transceivers. Of this group, three were involved in the avalanche, two were partially

buried, and one remained on the surface. Of the two partially buried people, one was able

to self-rescue, and the other was located initially by avalanche transceiver and a visible

hand and uncovered within 5 minutes. This individual died of injuries sustained.

The slab avalanche averaged 40 cm deep (maximum 50 cm), 200 m wide and ran 150 m

through dense- and open-forested terrain. The avalanche released above the group from a

steeper 38 degree slope. The group was skiing down and across a 27-34 degree slope in

the forest.

The suspected weak snowpack layer that released the avalanche was a facet layer

immediately beneath the recent storm snow.

Source: Selkirk Tangiers Helicopter Skiing


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Jan. 19, 2005

Local man killed in Canadian avalanche

By Suzanne Cheavens

An avalanche near Revelstoke, British Columbia around noon Tuesday, Jan. 18 claimed the life of realtor Stephen Butts and injured another man in a party of Telluriders who have been heli-skiing in the popular area for years.

According to officials with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, an avalanche in the Twin Buttes backcountry of the Selkirk mountains ripped from above a party of nine from Telluride and Aspen, killing Butts, 48, president of Telluride Properties, and injuring Stephen Cieciuch. Cieciuch suffered a fractured tibia-fibula and is being flown back to Colorado for surgery, said a spokesperson from Queen Victoria Hospital in Revelstoke.

All the other skiers in the party were accounted for soon after the slide. With Butts and Cieciuch were John Pryor, Tim Hild, Steve Hilbert, Stuart Brown, Kevin Croke and friends from Aspen. The coroner's office is investigating the cause of death.

Sgt. Art Kleinsmith with the RCMP said that the slide was most likely natural, but avalanche techs will not be able to investigate until the weather lifts.

"I've seen pictures and it looks like it could be natural causes," Kleinsmith said. "The skiers were below the slide. But we've got so much snow, none of our experts will go in there until the roads are opened and the avalanche danger has been decreased."

The avalanche, Kleinsmith said, started on treed terrain above the skiers.

"Where they were was about a 25 [degree] slope, but it was much steeper above them," Kleinsmith said. "It came right out of the trees."

Kleinsmith described the resulting debris field as "fairly large."

Canadian avalanche forecasters rated the Revelstoke backcountry area danger level extreme.

Revelstoke and other parts of western Canada and the U.S. Pacific Northwest are being pounded by what area weather and avalanche experts call "The Pineapple Express." The weather originates in the South Pacific where it is swept north and east by the jet stream over Hawaii where it picks up moisture - and its nickname - dumping rain and snow over the Pacific Northwest.

Evan Manners of the Canadian Avalanche Association said that more than a foot and a half of snow in the Revelstoke area over the last few days has led to widespread avalanche activity and road closures.

"This (Pineapple Express) results in intense snowfall and intense rain," Manners said. "It's a massive storm and will just have to run its course."

Revelstoke is located in the southeast portion of Canada's westernmost province. The Twin Butte backcountry area is about 12-15 kilometers east of Revelstoke.

Selkirk Tangiers Helicopter Skiing, Ltd., which ferried Butts and his companions to the Selkirks, has been in operation for more than 27 years, according to the Web site. Clients must sign a waiver releasing the company from any legal claims in the event of calamity or loss.

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North Okanagan: Killer avalanche

Web posted on Wednesday, 19 January 2005

An avalanche in the mountains near Revelstoke has claimed the life of a skier from Colorado. It happened Tuesday afternoon about 12 kilometers east of Revelstoke. 48-year-old Stephen Butts was one of about a dozen skiers who had been flown into the area by Selkirk Tangiers Helicopter Skiing. Butts was killed in the avalanche. Another skier was injured and is being treated at Revelstoke hospital. The avalanche risk in the region is extreme and the Canadian avalanche centre had advised everyone to stay out of avalanche terrain.