A snow grooming machine was caught in an avalanche on Whistler
Mountain early Thursday morning, showing that the weak snowpack remains despite
The driver of the snowcat sustained minor injuries from broken
glass that cut his hand.
The machine was operating on Pika’s Traverse when the slide
occurred at approximately 1:30 a.m. Thursday, according to a release from
Whistler Blackcomb. The slide pushed the snow groomer sideways approximately
100 metres down the side of the run.
Whistler Blackcomb says extensive avalanche control had taken
place in the area during the day on Wednesday, Jan. 7. Other machines had been
working in the area Wednesday afternoon and through the evening before the
While that terrain has been designated as “Closed” to all
skiers and snowboarders since Jan. 1, the groomers had gained approval from the
avalanche control team to work on the access road.
The operator was instructed to stay in the machine until patrol
arrived. The operator, accompanied by ski patrol, walked out from the avalanche
site on snowshoes, before being transported down the mountain to the Whistler
Health Care Centre.
Whistler Blackcomb says the incident is further evidence of the
unusual snowpack this winter. A deep-seated instability has left the snowpack
prone to avalanches in areas that would not normally be affected.
Warmer temperatures and periods of rain on Wednesday may
eventually help stabilize the snowpack in some areas, but as of Thursday
afternoon the avalanche danger rating remained “extreme” in the alpine and
treeline areas, and “considerable” below treeline.
The forecast for Friday is for the freezing level to drop to
near the valley bottom and for 2-5 cm of new snow. More snow is expected
Avalanche control teams will continue to review all aspects of
their work, recording where slides are triggered from explosive testing, and
pinpointing areas that are not sliding, to understand daily and weekly what is
happening on the mountains.
Patrollers are working on the terrain systematically and are
utilizing more explosives. There will continue to be inbounds areas designated
as “Closed” and Whistler Blackcomb urges all skiers and snowboarders to heed
all on-mountain signage. Anyone caught entering into a “Closed” area will face
the consequences of losing their mountain access privileges at Whistler
Blackcomb for one full year.