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Two snowboarders, skier rescued after hit by avalanche in Whistler area

A Snow cat operator grooms the backside of Blackcomb Mountain.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Two backcountry snowboarders and a skier had a narrow escape as they were carried away by an avalanche that swept down on them near the Blackcomb ski area.

One of the snowboarders was buried for up to four minutes before he was dug out of the snow by his frantic companions, who had managed to free themselves. Some nearby skiers also came to the rescue.

All three of those caught in the Class 2 avalanche were airlifted to the Whistler Health Care Centre for treatment, but none suffered significant injury.

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The avalanche struck shortly after 11 a.m. on Tuesday, said Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair of Whistler RCMP.

He said it hit while the group was preparing to ascend terrain in the popular Corona Bowl area of Spearman Glacier, not far outside the boundaries of Blackcomb in Garibaldi Provincial Park.

Another party of four had just skied up and was preparing to ascend as well, but the avalanche missed them, said Staff Sgt. LeClair. The avalanche is believed to have been triggered by skiers higher up, he added.

News of the avalanche was quickly radioed to the Blackcomb ski patrol, and soon afterward members of Whistler Search and Rescue, ski patrollers and a doctor arrived to assist.

The area where the avalanche struck is regularly used by experienced backcountry skiers, the RCMP officer said. "They were beyond the ski area boundary, but this is legitimate backcountry recreation."

The avalanche risk was deemed considerable at the time, but Staff Sgt. LeClair said it was still reasonable to ski in the region. "It just means a careful evaluation of the terrain is needed … and it looks like these people were equipped for self-rescue, and it's a happy outcome."

Names and hometowns of those caught in the avalanche were not released.

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Meanwhile, Parks Canada has confirmed that a body has been recovered from a crevasse in Yoho National Park near Lake Louise, Alta.

Rescuers hoping to reach a B.C. backcountry skier who fell into a crevasse in the park a week ago finally got a break in the weather on Tuesday and managed to land a crew nearby. The missing man has been identified as Mark Taylor, manager of parks, recreation and culture for the city of Abbotsford.

Two others who had been skiing with Mr. Taylor were rescued on Friday after taking shelter for two days in an ice cave.

With a file from The Canadian Press

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