British Columbia

Lessons from 'the school of hard knocks': Out-of-bounds snowboarder lucky to be alive

Snowboarder Bobby Joyce was on the slopes of Cypress Mountain last Thursday when, lured by thoughts of fresh powder, he ducked under the out-of-bounds rope near one of the chairlifts.

Bobby Joyce was rescued from a cliff on Cypress Mountain last week

Bobby Joyce with his son on the chairlift. He was snowboarding alone the day he went out of bounds and says he was thinking about the impact his choice would have on others, like his family and the volunteer rescuers, while waiting to be pulled out. (Bobby Joyce)

Vancouver snowboarder Bobby Joyce was on the slopes of Cypress Mountain last Thursday when, lured by thoughts of fresh powder, he ducked under the out-of-bounds rope near one of the chairlifts.

"I had a good morning, got up there super early and I knew what was on the other side of that rope," Joyce said.

"I made that choice and it didn't really end up that well for me."

Rather than finding better snowboarding conditions, Joyce ended up within feet of a cliff edge in avalanche-prone terrain.

Unable to get out on his own, the 40-year-old father called for help.

Volunteers from North Shore Rescue pulled him out by helicopter later that afternoon from the Montizambert Creek drainage area.

It's a common location for out-of-bounds skiers and snowboarders to end up, and has claimed lives over the years.

"It was very lucky for me," he told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition. "I should know better and that's definitely one from the school of hard knocks."

Bobby Joyce went looking for fresh powder but quickly found himself in steep, treacherous terrain on the other side of the out-of-bounds rope. (Bobby Joyce)

Learning from experience

Joyce said he felt compelled to share his story, hoping it will dissuade others from making the same choices he did and going out of bounds.

"It's just not worth it," he said. 

Mike Danks, team leader of North Shore Rescue, says most people rescued by the group see the error of their ways, but few are willing to speak publicly about the experience.

"It really takes a lot of courage to do that," he said. "We really appreciate that gentleman coming forward and using himself as the example to really emphasize the reasons not to do the things he did."

Tracks in the snow

This was the second out-of-bounds rescue in the same area of Cypress Mountain in the last week. 

"We get people who just keep venturing into these areas to try to get fresh powder lines but they don't really understand the risk they are putting themselves into," Danks said. 

On the next rescue, a few days later, helicopter crews spotted another set of ski tracks in the North Strachan Creek area.

"To this day, we still don't know if there is someone that is stuck in there, because no one has been reported missing as of yet, but this is a common worry for us," Danks said. 

Danks recommends skiers and snowboarders travel with at least one other person, especially in avalanche-prone areas, and check conditions before venturing out.

With files from The Early Edition.

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