North

2 injured in White Pass avalanche, south of Whitehorse

Two men from the Ottawa area were injured after being caught in a large avalanche in the White Pass area, south of Whitehorse.

Ski group visiting from Ottawa area hit by 'wet slab avalanche'

Paul Goulet (left) and Gaetan Martel in good spirits at the Whitehorse hospital on Wednesday afternoon. The two suffered minor injuries in an avalanche in the White Pass area. (submitted by Paul Goulet)

Two men, visiting Yukon from Ottawa, were injured Wednesday morning when their back-country ski group was hit by an avalanche in the White Pass area, south of Whitehorse.

Paul Goulet and Gaetan Martel were swept down Log Cabin mountain after a snow slab gave way above them.

"It broke at the top, and the momentum of it just came our way and I guess that was it," Goulet said from the Whitehorse hospital, where he was getting x-rays done on his ankle and knee. Martel also injured his knee.

"The first one pushes us down a fair bit, and we were both at the surface, and the second one came right after. And the second one was considerably larger, and pushed us about 700 feet down the slope," Goulet said.

"We were able to fight our way to the surface and stay on the surface, and in the end both of us were head above the snow when it stopped."

Their companions helped dig them out of the snow and get to safety.

Goulet said he and five others, all from the Ottawa area, are experienced backcountry travellers who have avalanche training, and were travelling with safety equipment.

"We were not a group of daredevils, we're very conservative and cautious with where we were going," he said. "It can literally happen anywhere.

"Everyone's pretty thankful that we were on the winning side of that."

Avalanche risk high

James Floyer of the Avalanche Canada Centre in Revelstoke B.C. called it a "wet slab avalanche," and a large one — about 450 metres long, and about 200 metres wide.

"Certainly big enough to kill a person. Luckily that didn't happen in this case," he said.

Floyer said it's a reminder that things are pretty dicey right now in many alpine areas, and any back-country adventurers should proceed with caution. 

He said recent snow and rain, combined with warm temperatures, have made the White Pass area a particular concern.

"This wouldn't necessarily be an isolated incident," he said. 

"I could certainly see that this kind of avalanche could be triggered elsewhere, certainly in the White Pass area."

with files from Vic Istchenko

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