bc-090102-dagenais

Chris Dagenais of Grouse Mountain Resorts Ltd. said the actions of the three skiers and one snowboarder were 'absurd,' considering the recent avalanche dangers. ((CBC))

Three skiers and a snowboarder have been banned from the Grouse Mountain ski area for life and will be billed for costs after ducking past a boundary rope at the North Vancouver site and ignoring safety instructions.

According to a release issued Friday by Grouse Mountain Resorts Ltd., the mountain safety patrol made voice contact with the four men around the Heaven's Sake run and instructed them to leave the "extremely hazardous and avalanche-prone area."

After those instructions went unheeded, the RCMP were notified along with the North Shore Search and Rescue Team.

Rescuers were unable to enter the extremely steep area, so a helicopter was called.

After the four men were removed, officials say they continued to be unco-operative in providing their names to rescuers. RCMP later determined that the men are B.C. residents — two aged 24 and two aged 25.

The men were given lifetime bans from the mountain and will be billed for the full expense of the search-and-recovery effort, once the cost is determined.

The names of the four men will also be circulated to all mountains in Western Canada.

"You'd have to have your head buried over the last couple weeks to not understand that avalanche risk is ubiquitous across our province," said Chris Dagenais, director of communications at Grouse Mountain.

"At this particular time, to knowingly to go out of a controlled area like that is putting your own life at risk, it's putting the lives of those who have to come after you at risk as well. It's absurd and an incredibly arrogant thing to do as well."

Friday's rescue comes on the heels of two deaths at Whistler Blackcomb earlier this week — a skier and a snowboarder who ventured into out-of-bounds areas were killed by avalanches.

And on Wednesday, 21-year-old James Martin was rescued from Mount Seymour in North Vancouver. He had been lost for three days after going snowboarding in an out-of-bounds area.

The Canadian Avalanche Centre issued an updated warning Thursday, saying a weak snow pack has created "unstable and unusual" conditions for the south coast.

"Don't let the fresh snow and brief periods of sunshine lure you into typical big slopes and steep chutes," the warning said. "It's important to be patient and make conservative terrain choices for the time being."

The centre said conditions are expected to deteriorate on Saturday night.