Avalanche death toll hits 24 across Western Canada, U.S.

Officials at the Canadian Avalanche Centre are warning people to be careful after the number of avalanche deaths this season in Western Canada and the U.S. reached 24.

Officials at the Canadian Avalanche Centre are warning people to be careful after the number of avalanche deaths this season in Western Canada and the U.S. reached 24.

On Monday, a Quebec man skiing near the resort town of Lake Louise in Alberta became the tenth person to be killed in an avalanche this winter in Western Canada. In total, six men have died in avalanches in B.C. this season and four in Alberta.

South of the border, there have been 14 avalanche deaths: nine in Washington state, three in Utah and one each in Colorado and Wyoming.

Clair Israelson of the Canadian Avalanche Centre told CBC News on Monday that weak layers of snow have been buried by other heaps of snow, making the snowpack unstable.

"It appears that the area that's seeing the greatest activity is from the Okanagan Valley through to the Arrow Lakes, south to the U.S. border," said Israelson.

"In that area right now, I would just urge people to be extremely cautious and to avoid any exposure to avalanche terrain."

The safest way to travel in the backcountry is to move through areas with low-angled slopes and to stay away from steep mountain sides, said Israelson.

"We're seeing a cycle of very large avalanches that, frankly, is catching everyone a bit by surprise," said Israelson.

Bodies identified in B.C.

On Tuesday morning, RCMP in Kelowna confirmed that the body of Leigh Barnier was found inside the boundaries of the Big White ski resort on Monday afternoon.

The 21-year-old from Sydney, Australia, was working at Big White and had been snowboarding on an open ski run inside the resort boundaries when he was killed by the avalanche. He was not working when the incident occurred.

On Monday, RCMP also identified two other men killed in separate avalanches in the Southern Interior on Sunday.

Forty-four-year-old Penticton resident Eric Hofman died while snowmobiling north of Midway and 59-year-old David Brosseau died on his snowmobile near Grand Forks.

Previously in B.C. this season, an avalanche killed a skier and seriously injured a snowboarder who entered a permanently closed area at the ski resort in Whistler on Jan. 1. And two men were killed by an avalanche while snowmobiling at Spanish Lake, near 108 Mile Ranch in B.C.'s Interior on Dec. 24.

With files from The Associated Press