A 42-year-old father of two was the most recent avalanche death in British Columbia and Alberta, a season that will go down as one of the worst in history.
Barry Strandquist of Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, died on Friday, April 18, when his snowmobile triggered an avalanche, which carried him and his machine nearly 500 metres off a ridge in the Rocky Mountains. The avalanche hazard rating for the area at the time was listed as moderate.
According to the RCMP, Strandquist drove his snowmobile over a cornice, which broke free and triggered the slide. A rescue team using a helicopter and search dog recovered the body.
It was the 28 th avalanche fatality in B.C. and Alberta this year, which tied the 1965 tally, which is the worst year on record.
This years total was increased significantly when two groups of seven people died in two different avalanches around Revelstoke within a two-week period. In the first slide, which took place on the Durand Glacier near Revelstoke, B.C., 11 skiers and snowboarder were caught, and one was seriously injured. Snowboard legend Craig Kelly was among the seven fatalities.
The second major slide, which took place in Glacier National Park, saw 17 skiers and boarder caught, 15 of whom were buried. The seven who were killed were from a private school in Alberta.
Things have not been much better in the U.S., which has reported 27 avalanche fatalities this season.
Of the fatal avalanches to occur in Canada, 17 were backcountry skiers or snowboarders, 10 were on snowmobiles, and one was snowshoeing.
Many of the deaths can be tracked back to a deep instability that formed in December, although a warm winter with periods of both light and heavy snow in the north and the Interior have contributed to the deaths.
In Whistler, where avalanche season is at its peak as a result of the sun loading exposed faces, and with lots of snow in March and April, the avalanche risk is currently rated from Moderate in the morning hours to High in the afternoons. That means natural and human-triggered avalanches are likely, and travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended.
In addition, local avalanche forecasters with Whistler-Blackcomb have noticed cornices dropping and triggering slab avalanches in the area.