An avalanche near McBride, B.C., has killed five snowmobilers, say local authorities. 

RCMP say they were notified of two separate GPS beacon activations in the Renshaw area east of McBride around 1:30 p.m. PT, at which point they activated the Robson Valley Search and Rescue Team.

There were at least three separate groups of snowmobilers caught in the slide, say RCMP. Six to eight people lost their snowmobiles and had to be shuttled off the mountain.

Avalanche Deaths

This photo taken near Fernie, B.C., on Dec. 30, 2008, shows the area where several avalanches killed eight snowmobilers. (Canadian Press)

"We are a small and mostly tight-knit community," McBride Coun. Sharon Reichert said.

"We live in a rugged country where many in the community enjoy the outdoors. That comes with danger, and today, our worst fears have been realized."

RCMP said search and rescue technicians were on the scene almost immediately, and a helicopter was deployed. 

Donita Kuzma, the regional coroner with the BC Coroners Service, said police conducted interviews with people as they came down the mountain to see if there were any other snowmobilers still missing. 

"It's a very busy time of year with snowmobilers," said Kuzma, adding that there were many of them in the area for the weekend. 

BC Emergency Health Services said it also transported one person to hospital in stable condition. 

Avalanche kills 5 in B.C.0:56

Human-triggered avalanche

Avalanche Canada said it had received a report of what appears to be a "very large, significant avalanche event" in the North Rockies.

"There are layers of concern in the snowpack in many parts of this region (and others) and a fairly significant weather event added rain and snow to the snowpack over the last few days," said Karl Klassen with Avalanche Canada.

"This may have produced stresses in the snowpack capable of producing large avalanches and this condition could take several days to settle and bond."

Klassen said the avalanche was human-triggered. ‚Äč

McBride Avalanche CP Graphic

At least three groups of snowmobilers were caught in the avalanche near McBride, RCMP say. (Canadian Press)

McBride Avalanche CP Graphic2

McBride is about 200 kilometres southeast of Prince George in northern B.C. (Canadian press)