News » Whistler

Deceased snowboarder identified


A male snowboarder who was found dead in tree well off of the Garbanzo chairlift last week has been identified as Johannes Peter van der Salm, age 31 of Holland. Previous accounts of his death put his age at 22.

He was not carrying any identification, but further investigation revealed that he was a guest at a hostel in Vancouver. The hostel provided the RCMP with passport information, and they then notified international and Dutch police authorities to contact the next of kin.

The deceased was a backpacker who had been travelling in Canada for an extended period of time, and did not have a permanent address.

Two skiers spotted Johannes from the Garbanzo chairlift at tower 17 at approximately 4 p.m. on March 20 and alerted the ski patrol. His legs and snowboard were sticking out of the snow. Two patrollers and an on-hill doctor attended the scene but were unsuccessful in their attempts to resuscitate the victim.

No cause of death has been determined as of yet, but there was no sign of physical trauma.

"There’s no official report yet, but at this point it looks like asphyxiation," said Community Policing Officer Carmen Magnusson.

"Out of tragedies such as this we are reminded of things to consider, such as carrying identification on your person and not skiing alone. If you do decide to go out alone, it is important that you tell a friend or loved one of your itinerary, including the time you expect to return."

Tree well incidents generally occur in light powder conditions on the downhill side of the tree, or on the side opposite the wind. If you’re caught your first priority is to stay calm and attempt to clear some air space around your face.

Whistles can be helpful if you’re buried with your head above ground.

Do not grab or push on the tree to assist you if it is still loaded with snow; even a slight vibration could cause the snow on the branches to drop on you.

Prevention is still the best policy. Ski and snowboard with friends, and avoid the trees on powder days to give the snow some time to settle. Avalanche tranceivers can also be helpful locating missing members of your party.