News » Whistler


On March 15, just after lunch, a Whistler Heli-Skiing Ltd. guide was caught and seriously injured in an avalanche on Rainbow Mountain. There were 10 skiers prepared to ski the slope one at a time when one of the skiers triggered a slide, carrying the guide down the slope. No one else was caught in the slide. John Hetherington, lead guide at Whistler Heli-Skiing, says there are two factors in any avalanche: what was the existing situation and what was the trigger. "The situation was that there were people standing on the slope when the second skier went down and triggered the slide," said Hetherington. "There was surface-hoar, which is the winter equivalent of summer dew. It is a crystal that grows on the surface of the snow, forming a weak layer." The guide was mostly buried, but fortunately had one hand showing through the snow. Two other guides were quickly on the scene and rescued the buried guide, who was conscious but suffered extensive rib injuries. He was flown out by helicopter to the Whistler Health Care Centre for assessment and later flown to Vancouver General Hospital. Hetherington, says that once recovered from the incident, the guide will resume his guiding duties. "The situation in the backcountry right now, is that there is a lot of snow," says Hetherington. "In certain areas there is buried surface-hoar and it’s very hard to find." Hetherington says that one of the things Whistler Heli-Skiing Ltd. will try to do within the next while to prevent incidents like this from reoccurring is to conduct a search for surface-hoar. "It’ll be hard, but we’re going to go over all the areas where we had seen surface-hoar forming and try to pattern it out a bit on a map."