A wilderness skiing expedition turned tragic in West Kootenay Friday morning, as an avalanche swept down a run on Meadow Mountain, killing one of the skiers.
The male victim was among a group of 10 skiers and two guides on a snow cat trip, organized by Selkirk Wilderness Skiing, headquartered in the small B.C. interior community of Kaslo.
A statement released by the wilderness skiing outfit said the skiers were to descend the high mountain run one at a time. The second skier down triggered the avalanche, according to the company.
The lead guide quickly located the skier, who was wearing an avalanche transreceiver. He was dug out from the snow, but efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.
None of the other skiers were hit by the avalanche.
The company runs a lodge on Meadow Mountain, from where skiers depart by snow cat for backcountry, alpine skiing. Selkirk’s statement said it was the first fatality to occur at the resort since its establishment 37 years ago.
“This kind of thing rocks everyone to the core,” said spokesman Keith Davis. “It’s a very personal thing. Safety is at the heart of the operation, and this hits us very hard.”
Mr. Davis said the group of skiers had been at the lodge for several days, and had been scheduled to depart on Saturday.
Weather in the area had been excellent - sunny with light winds and no fresh snow for the past 24 hours, he said.
Selkirk’s certified mountain guides make regular checks of snow conditions throughout the day, Mr. Davis said.
The victim's identity is not being released until next of kin has been notified.
A posting by the Canadian Avalanche Centre for the Kootenay Boundary region of the province assessed the risk of avalanche as moderate.
The Centre advised that moderate risk means “heightened avalanche conditions on specific terrain features,” and skiers are advised to evaluate snow and terrain carefully.
The fatality is the fifth avalanche death to occur in B.C. since the ski season started.
With a report from The Canadian Press