A short trip into a closed section on Blackcomb Mountain has led to a year-long ban for one backcountry ski trekker.
Bridget Daley decided to "skin up" with a friend on April 26, after having checked conditions and access with a ski patroller friend a few days prior.
Daley said they started at the end of the Jersey Cream Express chairlift and decided to trek along a snowmobile track on a groomed section beyond a roped-off area with an "avalanche warning" sign, have lunch near 7th Heaven, and return the same way, believing a ridge to be subject to the closure but not the whole area.
The trek and lunch took about 90 minutes and they returned safely.
"As we came out, a patroller came up on his skidoo and said 'What are you doing here?' We told him we'd just come up from that route and he said the whole of 7th Heaven was closed. We told him we didn't know that," Daley said.
The patroller took photos of their passes and the next day they were banned until the end of the 2012/2013 winter season as part of Whistler Blackcomb's zero tolerance policy. They were refused leave to appeal.
"I made a mistake and didn't check on (the day) where it was safe for me to go," she said.
Visitors could easily make the same mistake and Daley, who has lived in Whistler for three seasons, wants to warn others that both safety risks and loss of mountain access are a high price to pay.
"I want to make other people aware that it could happen to them and there are serious, serious consequences," she said.
"I had everything to lose and nothing to gain by doing something like this. We still feel now that what we did was not a risk because we were on the skidoo track, but we were in a closed area when we shouldn't have been."
Doug Forseth, senior vice president of operations at Whistler Blackcomb, said 12 people had their passes revoked in the week ending May 4 for similar reasons. He cited two deaths several years ago, one on Whistler the other on Blackcomb, as motivations.
"This time of year, with the big snows that we still have up there, and then last week it was getting warmer, it becomes very dangerous," he said. "We're just trying to keep people safe. We can't fathom why people think (accidents) don't happen to them."
The zero tolerance policy has been in place for around four years, Forseth added.
"We've continued to improve the signage and crack down... Closed means closed," he said. "When we have people going past closed signs we can't ignore that."
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