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WSAR alarmed over backcountry use

More avalanches prompt rescues in region



Whistler Search and Rescue is so concerned about backcountry users ignoring warnings about avalanche conditions that it has issued a press release.

"Squamish / Whistler / Pemberton SAR Teams also wish to express their alarm at the level of disregard being displayed by a segment of backcountry recreation user groups who seemingly ignore the hazard levels as published daily by the Canadian Avalanche Association," states the release.

"The teams are urging public users of the backcountry to be more prudent in their decision making when traveling in avalanche terrain."

Shortly before noon on Jan 2, Whistler SAR received a request for assistance from the BC Ambulance Service to extricate two backcountry skiers injured as a result of avalanche involvement in the Steep Creek area, off of the Duffey Lake Road.

SAR members headed in by helicopter to rescue the two skiers. One sustained a back injury and the other had suffered critical injuries including broken leg, broken pelvis, crushed chest and head trauma. Both were airlifted to Whistler Municipal Heliport and transferred to ambulance for transport to Whistler Medical Clinic prior to being transferred down to Vancouver.

Almost as soon as that rescue helicopter landed in Whistler the same team was alerted to a second avalanche incident, this one involving a backcountry skier on Sunshine Mountain above Bralorne. With limited daylight remaining, the SAR team flew to Bralorne, picked up the witness at the local pub and with his help located the subject and then airlifted him to Whistler for treatment of broken legs.

A third avalanche accident in the Eldorado Basin above Gunn Lake earlier that same day resulted in TLH Heliskiing having to extricate an unrelated ski touring party member to medical care following a slide that resulted in a debilitating knee injury.

There have been two avalanche fatalities in B.C. in the last four days. Ronald Greg Sheardown, 45, was killed in an avalanche near Revelstoke on Dec 30. On Dec 29, Duncan MacKenzie, 30 died after succumbing to his injuries sustained in an avalanche in the Caspar Creek area near Pemberton.