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Snowmobiler killed in backcountry avalanche

Victim identified as 44-year-old from Squamish



A man is dead after he was caught up in an avalanche while snowmobiling in the backcountry on Tuesday, Mar. 6.

The avalanche occurred at roughly 3 p.m. According to reports, two members of the public were high-marking in the glacier bowl above Grizzly Lake, seeing how high they could take their snowmobiles, when the slide was triggered. One snowmobile turned right at the top of the slope and the other left, with the rider on the left getting caught up in the slide.

Whistler Search and Rescue attended with a member of Whistler Blackcomb Ski Patrol and Blackcomb Aviation, but by the time they arrived the man had been located and dug out by his companions and other members of the public snowmobiling in the popular area. He had been under the snow for about 20 minutes before he was located, and was not breathing and had no pulse when he was uncovered. The male victim, confirmed to be a 44-year-old from Squamish, was found about five metres from the toe of the avalanche.

The group began to provide CPR and were joined by a doctor from Whistler Mountain Ski Patrol. The victim was flown to the Whistler Health Care Centre by helicopter, where he was pronounced dead. The cause of death is not known at this time.

The police have not officially released the man's identity, but friends on Facebook have identified the victim as Dennis Leski.

The avalanche was rated on site as a Size 3 on a scale of 1 to 5, which means it was large enough to "bury a car, destroy a small building, or break trees." The typical mass is over 1,000 tons with a length of 1,000 metres.

That assessment could be revised during the investigation.

Brad Sills , the manager of Whistler Search and Rescue, called it a "sad day," and urged members of the public to use caution and read the signs. At the time of the accident the avalanche hazard was rated Considerable for the area, and there were natural slides to warn backcountry users.

"There was a Class 4 in the area from 8 a.m. and there were naturals everywhere this morning," said Sills.

Avalanches were a global story this week with two avalanche deaths in Utah, slides in California, an in-bounds slide that destroyed an occupied chairlift in France and, most serious, a massive avalanche in Afghanistan that killed 42.

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