Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2006-01-14
Submitted By: WWAN
Place: base of Mount Baldy, 1.5km from Island Lake Lodge
State: BC
Country: CANADA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 1 person caught, buried, and killed from a natural avalanche


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Sun, January 15, 2006

Avalanche kills ski guide.

Staff member was checking weather station before morning slide hit near Fernie


Warm weather is being blamed for an avalanche which killed a professional guide at a popular B.C. ski resort yesterday.

The staff member at Island Lake Lodge, about 12 km northwest of Fernie, was out at 7 a.m., checking a weather station before a scheduled guide meeting, when the slide hit.

Resort spokesman Dave Nicholls said staff started a search when the guide, whose name has not been released, did not respond to radio contact.

"When there was no response from the guide, the crew went out and found an avalanche had come down over the weather station," Nicholls said.

Staff members found the guide buried more than a metre deep in the debris field, with the help of a rescue dog and search equipment.

He was flown to hospital in Fernie, but never regained consciousness.

Nicholls said cat-skiing operations at the resort were suspended yesterday, adding the tragedy left the close-knit staff devastated.

"It's a small operation, about 80 staff in the wintertime, and we work very closely together on a day-to-day basis," he said.

Island Lake's John Birrell said warm temperatures were a factor in the avalanche.

"Yes, it's warm and we've had a significant amount of snow in the last seven, eight, nine days," he said.

It was foggy and snowing at the time of the fatal slide.

The guides routinely visit weather stations daily to gather data for assessing area conditions, Nicholls said.

"There's been no record of slides reaching that location before -- it is in a treed and wooded location," he said.

The station is located near the base of Mount Baldy, about 1.5 km northwest of the lodge.

The ski guide's death coincided with Avalanche Awareness Days being held at Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna.

Blair Ireland, director of guest services at Big White, said the program educates people on how to prevent and deal with an avalanche.

Yesterday marked the first avalanche deaths at Island Lake Lodge since two skiers died in a slide in February 2001.

Meanwhile, in Burnaby, B.C., the bodies of two men who disappeared after leaving a university pub Friday were recovered from Burnaby mountain yesterday afternoon