Four heli-skiers dead in avalanches in less than a week 

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Although the official avalanche report has yet to be completed, the CAA believes the size of the slide was about a 2.5 in terms of its path and avalanche destruction potential.

A size 2 avalanche has a path of approximately 100 metres, and could bury, injure or kill a person. A size 3 avalanche has a path up to 1,000 metres, and could bury and destroy a car, damage a truck, destroy a small building, or break a few trees.

A number of natural slides had been reported, with most slabs between 20 and 50 cm thick.

Three dead in Nelson

Three backcountry skiers from the U.S. died in an avalanche on the afternoon of Jan. 28 in the Kaslo area, north of Nelson.

Four out of five skiers in that group were caught in the avalanche on Mount Carlyle, but only one skier was able to ski out of danger.

According to the local RCMP, they were skiing single file down the slope. Three of the skiers had made it down, and the fourth triggered an avalanche which trapped the three people below him.

The group dug the victims out over a two hour period, then returned to the backcountry cabin to notify the police through a radio-telephone. The bodies were recovered on Tuesday, and taken to Trail, B.C. for autopsies.

The group of eight Americans were staying at Kootenay Mountain Huts on Mount Carlyle, 10 km north of Kokanee Glacier provincial park.

They didn’t have guides, but the group was comprised of experienced backcountry skiers.

The three victims, two men and one woman, were from Washington.

Once again the avalanche risk was rated Considerable.

According to Evan Manners, the operations manager for the Canadian Avalanche Association, the majority of accidents involving avalanches occur during Considerable conditions.

"Basically what’s happened is we’ve had two waves of the same storm come through as we started the weekend, and later on in the weekend, and it left behind a lot of snow and the danger jumped to high for most of the province. Now that things had calmed down a bit on Monday, we downgraded the risk to considerable," he says.

"We know from our research that the greatest number of accidents occur when the danger is rated as considerable. When it’s a high hazard, it’s usually during or immediately after a big storm, and not as many people go into the backcountry during a big storm.

"After the storm, the snow is great for skiing and snowmobiling. The further away from the storm you get, you start to lose natural indicators, like natural avalanches, snow cracking from skis, or settlements. There’s not many signs left. We do our tests and make a call."

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