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Multiple people buried in backcountry avalanches near Pemberton

Avalanche risk in the Sea to Sky backcountry remains considerable
The aftermath of an avalanche near Mount Cayoosh on Saturday, March 5.

Multiple people were buried in avalanches in the Sea to Sky backcountry on Saturday, according to reports posted to Avalanche Canada's website.

One of the close calls involved a group of three skiing near Wendy Thompson Hut east of Pemberton. According to a Mountain Information Network (MIN) report, one person was fully buried while another was partially buried with obstructed breathing.

The avalanche "occurred when subject turned below rocky convex section triggering a thin wind slab that propagated upslope into deeper wind loaded terrain," reads the user-submitted report. "Involved subject was carried downhill through trees and subsequently buried between 40-100cm. Subject rescued by partners and had sustained injuries in the avalanche. Pemberton SAR responded to the avalanche site and transported the subject via helicopter."

Earlier that morning, just to the southwest of the Wendy Thompson Hut near Cayoosh Mountain, a different group of skiers was caught up in a slide earlier Saturday morning. According to a MIN report, that slide involved two of the three skiers in the group, fully burying one.

"Had a good day turn bad around Cayoosh today," the MIN report reads.

"... the first skier in our group dropped in from a safe zone. Just as the second skier dropped, a slide propagated uphill of the second skier, catching both skiers who slid all the way to the bottom of the Rock N' Roll gulley. The third skier was not caught. The first skier miraculously ended up on top of the debris with no injuries. Second skier was fully buried and the third skier located and extracted them within approximately 5 minutes of the slide.

"The buried skier was injured and airlifted out. Crown was about 75cm thick and propagated about 60-80m, with lots more snow getting pulled in from the sides of the gulley. My belief is the recent storm snow failed on a sun crust. Perhaps it was a wind slab but it skied more like storm snow and was lower than the elevation we expected to see windslabs. Thanks to Pemberton SAR and the other skier group that came to our aid today."

The extent of the injuries of those involved in Saturday's slides is unclear at this time.

Avalanche risk in the Sea to Sky backcountry remains considerable. Avalanche Canada posted an update to its website on Sunday.

"On Saturday, two avalanche incidents occurred in the Duffey area. These appear to have resulted from a period of northeasterly winds creating touchy wind slabs at all elevations. Winds have been variable over the past couple of days and therefore wind slabs should be expected on all aspects and all elevations in exposed terrain on Sunday," it read.

"Keep in mind that if triggered, wind slabs may step down to the deep persistent slab problem resulting in large avalanches, especially in shallow snowpack areas in the north and east of the region."

So far in 2023, 12 people have died in backcountry incidents in B.C.