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Man dies while skiing backcountry near Whistler

More than 78 centimetres of fresh snow has fallen in the Whistler area recently with more expected in the coming week
A man in his 30s has died after falling into a tree well in the Brandywine area, south of Whistler.

A backcountry skier has died after falling into a tree well in the Brandywine Bowl area, just south of Whistler.

On Thursday, Dec. 31, at approximately 4:45 p.m. Whistler RCMP was notified by the Emergency Coordination Centre of the incident.

In a release police say the man, in his 30s, was skiing with friends when he went into the tree well.  BC Ambulance and Whistler Search and Rescue were initially called to assist but unfortunately, the male did not survive.

"This is the third backcountry death in the Sea to Sky this week with an additional number of near-misses," said Sergeant Sascha Banks in a release.  "It appears [in] this current incident ... [that] the group had all the knowledge, skills, equipment, and receivers necessary. 

"If these unfortunate events can happen to the most experienced this can happen to anyone.  Our thoughts are with the family, friends, and responders and we are asking those who come to our area to adventure do so with the utmost safety in mind."

Earlier this week two snowbikers perished after being caught in an avalanche near Pemberton.

Whistler RCMP is working with the BC Coroners Service to investigate the circumstances leading up to the man's death. If anyone has any information and has not spoken to police about this incident please contact the Whistler RCMP at 604-932-3044.

Natural hazards such as tree wells occur in both the backcountry and within ski area boundaries. Skiers and riders should always head out with a partner or group. More than 78 centimetres of snow has fallen in the alpine in the last seven days with more snow expected in the coming week.

A tree well is a hole or depression that forms around the base of a tree while snow accumulates. If a person falls, head first, into an area of deep snow around the base of a tree they can quickly become immobilized. The more the person struggles the more entrapped in the snow they become. The risks of a tree well accident or fatality can be reduced by following these basic practices:

• Always ski or ride with a partner

• Keep your partner in sight and stay in visual contact so they can see you if you fall

• Stay close enough to either pull or dig each other out

Be prepared when you go into the backcountry for self rescue and the rescue of those you are with carrying transceivers, shovels and probes, along with other survival gear.

BC AdventureSmart is also hosting snow safety programs every other week starting Jan. 6.

January 6, 2021: Snow Safety Education - Backcountry

January 20, 2021: Snow Safety Education - Inbounds

February 3, 2021: Survive Outside Program

February 17, 2021: Snow Safety Education Program - Backcountry

March 3, 2021: Survive Outside Program

March 17, 2021: Snow Safety Education - Backcountry