British Columbia

Snowmobiler from Alberta dies in avalanche near Valemount, B.C.

Two snowmobilers were caught in a remote-triggered avalanche south of Valemount, B.C., on Saturday. While one was able to ride away, the other was buried by snow and found unresponsive by his companion, according to RCMP.

3rd avalanche death in the province in January as officials warn of dangerous conditions

A snowy mountain.
On Saturday morning, a remote-triggered avalanche buried a person who had been out snowmobiling in the Allen Oasis Recreation Area south of Valemount, B.C. (Photo provided by Avalanche Canada)

A man from Grande Prairie, Alta., is dead after he was caught in an avalanche while snowmobiling south of Valemount, B.C., on Saturday, according to police and Avalanche Canada. 

The avalanche forecaster said the victim was with another snowmobiler in what is known as Bowl 3 in the Allen Oasis Recreation Area, a managed snowmobiling area near Valemount, which is located in east central B.C. about a three-hour drive southeast of Prince George.

Authorities say one snowmobiler was able to ride away from the remote-triggered avalanche, but the other was buried by snow and avalanche debris. The survivor located the buried person, but found him unresponsive. 

RCMP Cpl. Alex Bérubé says the survivor tried to resuscitate the victim but was unsuccessful.

Bérubé says the individuals were approximately 100 metres from each other at the time of the avalanche. 

Remote-triggered avalanches are avalanches that occur away from the point where they are triggered. They happen when a slab fractures the weak layer below it but does not produce an avalanche at the site of the fracture, according to Avalanche Canada.

 

RCMP received a call at 11:20 a.m. PT on Saturday and responded alongside local search and rescue volunteers, but they said the snowpack was too dangerous to recover the body. 

They hoped to recover the body Sunday with the help of Parks Canada staff, weather permitting. 

Bérubé said the B.C. Coroners Service has been notified and will take over the investigation. 

An Avalanche Canada spokesperson told CBC News in a statement that there have been several other reports of human-triggered avalanches in nearby areas. 

Dangerous snowpack across B.C.

This is the third avalanche fatality in B.C. so far this year.

On Saturday, a second police officer caught in a backcountry avalanche near Kaslo, B.C., earlier this month died of his injuries, the Nelson Police Department said.

Const. Mathieu Nolet, 28, was skiing with his colleague Wade Tittemore in a mountain pass 60 kilometres north of Nelson on Jan. 9, when the two were swept down the mountain in a large avalanche. Tittemore, 43, died of his injuries at the scene.

Earlier in January, Avalanche Canada warned that B.C.'s snowpack is unusually weak this season and could be vulnerable to avalanches.

The forecaster said lengthy periods of drought and cold weather has created numerous problematic layers in the snowpack in many areas of the province, with elevated risks only seen once every decade or two.

Corrections

  • Citing the RCMP, an earlier version of this story said the two snowmobilers were driver and passenger on the same snowmobile. Avalanche Canada later said rescue teams discovered the victim and survivor were driving their own snowmobiles.
    Jan 23, 2023 11:16 AM PT

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michelle Gomez is a CBC writer in Vancouver. You can contact her at michelle.gomez@cbc.ca.

With files from Kate Partridge and the Canadian Press

now