B.C. man survived avalanche in the Kootenays by triggering his airbag at just the right time
Blaine Penner was caught in a snowslide after stepping on a snow cornice that collapsed
Blaine Penner survived an avalanche on a southeastern B.C. slope more than a week ago thanks to being able to use his lifesaving equipment during his fall.
At around 8 a.m. MT on Feb. 5, the 37-year-old snowmobiler fell more than 600 metres from a cliff on the Kootenays' Norns Range after stepping off his sled onto a snow cornice that collapsed, triggering the slide.
"The earth fell out from beneath me," Penner told Sarah Penton, the host of CBC's Radio West. "[It] was non-stop. It was a continuous ride."
Penner says when he was tumbling down the mountain, he briefly thought he would die and accepted the fate.
But fortunately for Penner, he still had his helmet on and was able to pull his avalanche airbag activation handle.
"I came out of it [the freefall] unscathed," Penner said. "If I had done one thing differently, I'd be dead."
Penner says he also feels grateful that his radio was fully charged so that he could tell his backcountry adventure partner Nathan Roberts that everything was fine.
Roberts and volunteers in the Norns Range area called the Castlegar Search and Rescue for help, but the uninjured Penner was able to climb back to the top before the search professionals arrived.
Penner's incident happened just a week before a snowboarder and a skier were killed in separate backcountry avalanches near Whistler, B.C.
Penner also lost a friend to a snowslide several years ago.
He said he tried to keep his cool when reaching the top of the slope to meet up with friends who were waiting for him.
"I hugged my friends," he said. "There's no time to get emotional over this. Let's get off this mountain already."
The B.C. Search and Rescue Association reports calls for help so far this season have increased 48 per cent compared to the same time last year, with milder weather and the COVID-19 pandemic pushing more people into the backcountry.
Tap the link below to hear Blaine Penner's interview on Radio West:
With files from Radio West and Tom Popyk