Avalanche injures local woman 

A 25-year-old local woman sustained serious back injuries after she was carried into the trees by an avalanche in the Brandywine area in the early afternoon of Feb. 6.

Due to a combination of rough terrain, thick forest and the severity of her injuries, it was hours before a Whistler Search and Rescue team could arrange for a long-line helicopter rescue. The woman was hypothermic by the time she reached the Whistler Health Care Centre. She was sent immediately to Vancouver General Hospital, and at press time there was no word as to her condition.

The search and rescue team believe that the female snowboarder was with a group of snowmobilers and skiers who were doing shuttle runs when the avalanche took place.

Judging by the crown of the avalanche, the woman was carried almost 200 vertical metres down the slope and another 60 to 100 vertical metres into the forest before she hit the tree. Avalanche forecasters who arrived at the scene estimate that it was about a class two on a scale of one to four.

Emergency Health Services was the first to respond to the accident, and they called WSAR to assist with the extrication.

Although none of the rescuers dug a snow pit, it’s believed that the cause of the avalanche can be traced back to the November facet – a layer of frozen and windblown snow about one metre deep that was hardened by a three-week cold spell.

"We have a very menacing snow pack up there," said WSAR manager Brad Sills. "It’s not your typical West Coast snow pack, it’s more like a Rocky Mountain pack. It will break well into the spring. We’re starting to see the problems associated with it."

According to Sills, there was another visible slide above and to the west of the avalanche, which took place on a southeast aspect in the second cutblock down from Brandywine Bowl.

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