A woman knocked unconscious by an avalanche that buried her in nearly five feet of snow north of Pemberton, B.C., on Sunday survived — dug out within minutes by well-prepared backcountry skiers.
The woman was part of a group of 10 people who were ski-and-snowboard touring in the backcountry near Wendy Thompson Hut, off the Duffy Lake Highway, said RCMP.
They were skiing a slope, one at a time — a recommended practice in avalanche-prone areas — when the last skier triggered an avalanche about 100 metres above, said Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair.
The group below whistled to him, and he skied out of the avalanche's path, but it struck several members of the group.
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Three people were partially buried, up to their waist or chest, and one woman was completely engulfed, 1.5 metres beneath the snow.
Within minutes, the rest of her group along with eight others were able to locate her and dig her out, witnesses told RCMP.
She was unconscious and unresponsive but recovered once rescued, the RCMP said.
Avalanches 'very common'
The group was experienced, well-trained and behaving responsibly in the backcountry but still got caught in the avalanche, said LeClair.
"I think it's pretty safe to say ... that it was probably triggered by that last skier that was going down," he said.
"He probably hit the sweet spot and that's what triggered it."
LeClair says avalanches are very common in the area.
"Several members of the group had taken formal avalanche training and put those skills to use," said LeClair.
"While this group was well equipped and prepared, the incident highlights the need to be vigilant in the backcountry as avalanche and weather conditions can change quickly and without warning."