A skier who was fully buried and found unresponsive after an avalanche in the Sea to Sky corridor Tuesday managed to walk away from the slide, thanks to the touring partners who located him and reportedly performed CPR for 10 minutes.
The scary “close call” was detailed in one of several first-person reports posted to Avalanche Canada’s Mountain Information Network (MIN) that paint a picture of sketchy conditions in the backcountry this week.
According to the report posted to the public forum, the incident occurred while a four-person group was skiing Brohm Ridge, near Squamish, late Tuesday morning, Feb. 7, after the first skier in the group dropped in.
“After a while standing on top we had no signs of him exiting the run to where the sled was parked at the bottom,” the report reads.
After attempts at both radio and voice contact yielded no response, the post’s writer started travelling down an adjacent slope, triggering a slab in the process. Once they determined it was safe, two members of the group began the search while the fourth member stayed on top of the ridge as a precaution. After initial signals showed a best reading of 1.9-metres deep for the search subject, fortunately searchers “noticed the buried person had skis popping out of the snow still clipped in against a small tree,” the post explained.
“We extricated him, cleared his airway and started CPR as he was unresponsive, non breathing and really Cyanotic.”
The group reportedly performed CPR on the buried skier for 10 minutes until he regained a pulse and started breathing, before ultimately regaining consciousness another 10 minutes later.
“He was able to stand uninjured. With the assistance of a group of sledder [sic] we brought him back to the cabin where Search and Rescue took over,” the MIN post reads. “He is doing good. Most likely a small slab triggered above him, knocked him down and ended up head first into a tree/well. Big thanks to the Cabin team for the help and Search and Rescue. Pretty lucky outcome.”
Snowmobilers trigger large avalanches in Brandywine, Powder Mountain areas
Meanwhile in Chocolate Bowl, a popular backcountry zone in the Brandywine Mountain area just south of Whistler, a snowmobiler triggered a massive slab avalanche while riding down a steep roll on a northeast aspect on Wednesday morning, Feb. 8.
The slope featured “heavy cross loading” after more than 30 centimetres of new snow fell in the two days prior, according to the report.
One snowmobiler was caught in slide, “but managed to stay on top,” the post explained, and was extricated without injuries. The sled was buried in the slide but was recovered. According to the MIN report, the avalanche resulted in an approximate crown depth of 150 to 200 cm.
A video posted of the slide shows the snowmobiler attempting to outrun the snow cloud before the avalanche catches up with the snowmobile near the bottom of the slope. GoPro footage captured from the sled driver’s perspective, meanwhile, shows the snow surface fracturing under the snowmobile. After reaching the bottom of the steep slope, the sled even appears to start heading uphill before snow covers the camera lens.
Another MIN report covers a third slide that occurred on Powder Mountain on Wednesday morning, also near the Callaghan Valley south of Whistler.
According to the post, the size 2 slide was remotely triggered by a snowmobiler on a southeast aspect. “Cut across the bottom of the slope, remote triggered small slab off the convex (halfway up the slope) which quickly propagated into most of the slope,” the post explained. The writer estimated the slab avalanche to be about 24 cm thick and 50 m wide, with a run length of about 180 metres.
Sea to Sky avalanche danger ratings set to rise ahead of the weekend
The avalanche hazard rating for the Sea to Sky region was listed as “considerable” for terrain at or above the treeline on Wednesday. It’s the third classification on the five-level North American Public Avalanche Danger Scale, which ranges from “Low” to “Extreme,” and calls for dangerous avalanche conditions, meaning natural avalanches are possible and human-triggered slides are likely.
Avalanche danger for the corridor remained “considerable” for alpine and treeline terrain and “moderate” below the treeline on Thursday, but is predicted to rise to “high” for alpine and treeline elevations and “considerable” for below-treeline terrain on Friday, Feb. 10.
A storm set to begin Thursday evening is expected to drop about 35 cm of new snow over Whistler’s slopes by Friday afternoon, following the approximately 10 cm of new snow that already accumulated by mid-day Thursday.
“Recent storm snow combined with wind and warm temperatures will promote slab production and reactivity,” Avalanche Canada staff explained in Thursday’s public forecast for the region.
“Recent storm snow will take time to settle,” forecasters cautioned. “Watch out in areas where the wind has deposited large amounts of new snow.”