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Date: 2008-12-31
Submitted By: WWAN
Place: Out-of-Area, Blackcomb Backcountry
State: BC
Country: CANADA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 1 skier caught, buried, and killed

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Stay inbounds, police warn after 2 die in Whistler avalanches

Avalanches bury skier and snowboarder

By Canwest News Service with Vancouver Sun

January 2, 2009 10:04 AM

Global BCVANCOUVER - Police are warning skiers and snowboarders to stay within the marked boundaries of ski resorts after two men died in separate avalanches while enjoying their sports in out-of-bounds areas of B.C.’s Whistler-Blackcomb mountain.

“These tragic incidents emphasize the need for skiers and boarders to respect and obey all boundary markers and warnings,” B.C. RCMP said in a news release.

“The police would like to caution people to stay within the ski area boundary as the avalanche danger is currently rated ‘high.’ Additionally, travel within the backcountry is not advisable at this time.”

An experienced 37-year-old skier was found Thursday morning after he went missing around 8 p.m. Wednesday night in the Ruby Bowl of Blackcomb Mountain. He has not yet been publicly identified.

“The area was marked with signage indicating that the terrain was outside the ski area boundary and the avalanche danger rating was high,” said Amber Turnau, a spokeswoman for the resort that will be hosting much of the 2010 Olympics.

The second victim, a 26-year-old snowboarder, was found mid-afternoon Thursday on Whistler Mountain.

Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair of Whistler RCMP said the man, who was from outside the province but has not yet been identified, was boarding by himself in the Secret Chutes area near Whistler’s Symphony Bowl when he was buried by an avalanche.

The area had been closed to skiers due to snow conditions.

A third avalanche occurred Thursday on the Little Whistler run of Harmony Bowl, an in-bounds area of Whistler Mountain,

Steven Butt of Intrawest, which runs the resort, said the slide occurred about an hour-and-a-half after the run opened at noon, and it was closed minutes later.

Whistler-Blackcomb resort warned Thursday: “While skiing inbounds at Whistler Blackcomb, guests should be aware that they are in a rugged, alpine environment where natural hazards exist and weather can change in an instant.”

The Canadian Avalanche Centre also issued a special avalanche warning, saying that an exceptionally weak snowpack is causing “widespread avalanche danger.”

“The snowpack across much of B.C. and Alberta is unusually weak and the CAC has received many reports of avalanches triggered by recreational activity over the past 24 hours,” reads the warning. “As new snow accumulates on top of this fragile base, more avalanches are certain.”

The warning includes the South Coast Mountains from the U.S. border to Pemberton, the Columbia Mountains from Prince George to the U.S. border, the Kootenay Boundary region and the southern Rockies.

This season’s first fatal avalanches occurred on Sunday, when eight snowmobilers were trapped and killed about 40 kilometres southwest of Fernie, B.C. A memorial service will be held for the men on Sunday in their small hometown of Sparwood, B.C.

The Canadian Avalanche Centre says that, from 1978 to 2007, an average of 11 avalanche fatalities occurred per year in Canada. Last winter season, 18 Canadians were killed in avalanches.

The worst year on record was the 2002 to 2003 season, when 29 Canadians died in avalanches. Before that, in 1997 and 1998, there were 21 deaths.

On Christmas Eve, a 47-year-old Whistler man was killed within the ski hill boundaries when he skied into rocks on the upper section of Whistler’s Dave Murray Downhill run.

And on Dec. 22, 17-year-old Vancouver snowboarder Samuel Daigle died after hitting a boulder in a closed area of Whistler mountain.

With files from Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald

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