A father and son from Calgary have been identified as the victims of a large avalanche that swept down the side of a mountain in southeastern British Columbia.
RCMP say a group of nine snowmobilers was sledding Saturday on Mount Brewer in the Purcell Mountain range near Invermere when two people were swept away by what Avalanche Canada describes as a slide “capable of breaking trees or destroying a small wood-frame building."
“The avalanche was reportedly triggered after one of the snowmobilers was high marking,” said RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk in a news release.
High marking is a popular sledding activity, where the rider drives straight up a steep slope as far as possible before turning and descending.
Avalanche Canada said in a post on its website that the 200– to 400-metre wide avalanche tore away the entire snowpack from the surface to the ground layer and continued for more than a kilometre down the mountainside before running onto a small lake.
A 51-year-old Calgary man managed to inflate an airbag designed to keep him at the surface of the slide but Avalanche Canada said he was buried under more than two meters of snow.
By the time he was found, rescuers could not revive him and the release said he was flown to Invermere and District Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The body of his 24-year-old son, also from Calgary, was swept into a lake and was recovered Monday by RCMP divers, police said in a statement. The names of the men haven’t been released.
Police said none of the other seven snowmobilers were hurt.
A forecast from Avalanche Canada describes the snowpack over much of the Purcell region as “weak and touchy” due to two grainy layers, one right at the base and the other about 80 to 120 centimetres below the surface.
“Humans have and will continue to be able to trigger these layers in areas where the snowpack is shallow,” says the report.
It estimates the likelihood of triggering a slide in the area where the fatal avalanche occurred could increase due to a warming trend expected to last until Tuesday.
“Numerous very large avalanches have been reported daily,” the report warns, adding “this is the type of weak snowpack that could stick around for the remainder of the winter season.”