Snowmobiler survives avalanche, captures it on camera

A snowmobiler survived a close call when he was caught up in an avalanche near Tumbler Ridge, B.C.

'I think I won the lottery today,' Alberta man says of surviving slide in B.C.

'I think I won the lottery today,' says Terence Freeman, who survived an avalanche while snowmobiling. (Terence Freeman/Facebook)

A snowmobiler survived a close call this week when he was caught in an avalanche near Tumbler Ridge, B.C. 

Terence Freeman captured the avalanche and his tumble on camera on Feb. 6. He posted it to Facebook as a cautionary tale for other snowmobilers, saying it has changed his approach to climbing. 

"This was very close," the Alberta man said. 'I think I won the lottery today."

The avalanche

The video shows fracture lines appear in the snow as Freeman rides his snowmobile across vertical terrain. 

A shelf of ice then collapses under the snowmobile, and he and the machine slide several metres after hitting a boulder. 

The aftermath

Freeman estimates the shelf that gave way under his snowmobile was three to four metres high. 

"I am not an inexperienced rider, and this slope had no indicators that it might let go," he said on Facebook. "There was no overhang, and the trees were not bent and stripped like you normally associate with slides."

Warning signs? 

However, Avalanche Canada says there are many other indicators of avalanche risk that people should know. 

Karl Klassen, the public avalanche warning service manager, says the avalanche looked large enough to injure or kill a person. 

"It looks to me like a classic trigger point on that slope," he said. "That's a pretty hard slab he was riding on and a pretty big avalanche that he triggered."

The primary factor to consider is the steepness of the slope, Klassen said. Klassen couldn't estimate the incline definitively based on Freeman's footage, but said it appears somewhere in the 30- to 40-degree range. 

"If the slope is more than 30 degrees of incline, then you're definitely in avalanche terrain regardless of the other factors that are around you."

Klassen says there was also information available of a weak snowpack and windloading in the eastern Rockies where Freeman was snowmobiling. 

'Brave' to put in on social media

Still, Klassen says it was "pretty brave of him to put the video out there and open it up to discussion about something that could be construed as an error or a mistake."

Freeman also admitted the event has realigned his approach to climbing. 

Klassen says he understands people are sharing their experiences with avalanches on social media networks, but he says it's also a good idea to post it to crowdsourced tool, the Mountain Information Network app for Avalanche Canada. 


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