Bodies of snowshoers from Boston recovered from avalanche debris near Lake Louise
Risk of further avalanches prevented recovery crews from reaching area for days
Parks Canada officials have recovered the bodies of two American snowshoers who were caught in an avalanche north of Lake Louise in Alberta nearly a week ago.
The pair from Boston — a 32-year-old man and a 32-year-old woman — were believed to have been caught in a slide on the slopes of Mount Hector on Sunday.
The families of the missing pair have been notified and their identities will not be released, RCMP said.
The pair were only reported missing on Tuesday, after failing to check out of their hotel in Field, B.C., about 30 kilometres west of the hamlet of Lake Louise.
Their rented vehicle was found parked at the Mount Hector trailhead and covered in snow on Tuesday, leading searchers to believe it had been there for days.
"Two visitor safety specialists skied up Hector Creek looking for any clues they could find," said Grant Statham, incident commander for Parks Canada.
"About 20 minutes up the trail, we encountered a large avalanche covering the trail."
Snowshoe tracks led into the avalanche debris but didn't come out, leading searchers to suspect the missing pair had been buried.
When crews flew over the area in a helicopter on Tuesday, they picked up two avalanche transceiver signals.
Transceivers are devices that can be carried by people in the backcountry that give off a signal to help rescuers find them if they're buried in an avalanche.
However, a high avalanche risk prevented crews from reaching the area on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
After conducting avalanche control, visitor safety specialists with Parks Canada were able to search the area Friday morning.
"The first person was located down 200 centimetres and the second person was located down 320 centimetres," said Statham.
Statham called the current avalanche cycle one of the worst he has seen in 25 years.
"We've seen avalanches run across Lake Louise and break the lake open, we've seen avalanches breaking forest in many areas. Fortunately we have a regular avalanche control program that is ongoing. Anything out of the highway corridor has been running very big."
Parks Canada does not do avalanche control in the Mount Hector area.
The Icefields Parkway remains closed and isn't expected to reopen until Sunday.