A 21-year-old Vancouver man was swept some 600 metres down the south side of Piccolo peak in an avalanche Saturday, leaving him with serious but not life-threatening injuries.
"He went for quite a big ride," said Whistler Blackcomb patroller and avalanche forecaster Anton Horvath. "He was a very lucky man."
The avalanche happened around 2:15 p.m. on Feb. 20. Two brothers had skied beyond the Whistler Blackcomb boundary to Piccolo, the backside of Symphony Chair.
Though one brother had some avalanche training, neither had proper backcountry equipment such as avalanche beacons and probes.
"They weren't prepared to safely venture out into the backcountry," said Horvath.
The 24-year-old brother was able to call for help, which triggered Whistler's Integrated Avalanche Response Plan, involving patrollers, the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association, Whistler Search and Rescue and the RCMP.
Both were taken out of the area via helicopter and the younger brother was flown to the Whistler Health Care Centre.
Horvath explained that even with the recent period of benign weather, the potential for a human-triggered avalanche is still out there.
On that south side of Piccolo peak north winds have been blowing in the last weeks, redistributing the snow.
"As soon as you cross the boundary you're in uncontrolled terrain and there's all sorts of hazards lurking," he cautioned.
Whistler Blackcomb once again reminded skiers and riders to pay attention to all boundary signage posted by patrol and if going into the backcountry to have the knowledge and equipment necessary to be prepared for travel and self-rescue. The final reminder is to never venture out-of-bounds alone.