Body of Quebec man found near Wedge Creek 

Fatality highlights need to be prepared in backcountry

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Sills learned that Langlois was an expert skier but had no knowledge of the terrain he was skiing into — it was his first day on Blackcomb — had little if any backcountry gear, and had skied out of bounds the day before on Grouse Mountain.

The search used three helicopters, volunteer SAR members from Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton, the RCMP and other responders. It had to be big, said Sills, since they had no idea where he was when they started looking.

Despite these circumstances Sills believes it was only a matter of time before a backcountry user met their maker this year, based on the large number of calls for rescue so far.

“We have already done our annual average and there is months of winter left,” said Sills, adding they are responding to 10 to 15 calls a week.

SAR evaluates every call and responds appropriately and with so many calls this year the volume has been taxing volunteers and others on the front lines.

The situation is also complicated by the very nature of the searches. Last week SAR and the RCMP responded to a call about an avalanche on Mt. Fee in the Brandywine area. Because it couldn’t be determined if anyone was at risk three helicopter companies were called in, along with SAR volunteers, as part of an air search and calls were made to all the user groups in the area too.

“So huge amounts of money, huge amounts of volunteer time and effort were spent and there was exposure to risk just to determine that yes, there had been an avalanche, yes, they had got out of it and were all OK,” said Sills.

What Sills would like to see happen is people who self rescue call into 911 and let everyone know they are OK so resources can be saved for other rescues.

Many of the rescues call on Whistler-Blackcomb staff and equipment too. According to Dave Reid, a safety supervisor for the mountains, their call volume hasn’t been too bad this year.

Nevertheless he and other are working to get the message out that heading out of bounds means users are on their own.

“Once you pass the boundary of our mountain it is wilderness terrain,” said Reid. “No avalanche hazard reduction work is done, nothing is controlled out there, there are no warnings, there is no signage and many of the routes that seem obvious can quickly become impassable because of cliffs or snow conditions.

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