Nova Scotia

Snow slide in N.S. prompts Maritime avalanche alert

An avalanche alert has been released for the Maritimes following a report of a snow slide in Nova Scotia's Wentworth Valley over the weekend.

Man buried up to chest in snow slide while backcountry skiing

The blizzard that hit the Maritimes this weekend left a thick layer of light powder over solid snow that made the slide possible, said skiier Charlie Stevens. (Canadian Avalanche Centre)

An avalanche alert has been released for the Maritimes following a report of a snow slide in Nova Scotia's Wentworth Valley over the weekend.

The Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) said in a release there was a "close call" on Higgins Mountain, located about 140 kilometres north of Halifax.

According to the report on the CAC's website, on Saturday a skier skied down a slope, triggering the slide. The skier was carried by the avalanche to the bottom of a ravine. A second skier was above the first. He triggered a second slide but was able to avoid it.

Charlie Stevens, 21, was one of the skiers involved. He said he and three friends were skiing in the back country.

"I was the first one to ski down it and I entered off a little rock, made a couple turns and then stopped at the bottom, it went down to like a little gully," said Stevens.

"And then I looked up and the whole slope broke away and was coming down right behind me. I was at the bottom so I really had nowhere to go so I just braced myself for it and the snow started piling up around me and I ended up buried up to my chest in the snow." 

Stevens said he and his friends are familiar with slides from skiing in Western Canada.

"We were almost dumbfounded that it actually happened here," he said.

Stevens said he's been skiing in the area since he was a kid. He said he doesn't think that there's any danger now.

"It's fine now, the snow, it's had time to set and it's settled so it's not really much of a concern anymore," he said. "Plus, the chances of it happening — especially around here 'cause it's so wooded — are not very likely. But it can clearly still happen."

First warning, say officials

Bill Anderson, the general manager of New Brunswick's Poley Mountain, said in his 42 years in the industry, he's never heard of an avalanche alert issue for the Maritimes.

"Are you serious?" he asked when CBC News asked him about the warning.

Karl Klassen, the Public Avalanche Warning Service Manager for the CAC, said though rare, avalanches happen.

"We've worked extensively with our partners in Newfoundland in the past and have issued alerts … but I think this is the first time we've done something like this in Nova Scotia," he said.

"Heavy snowfalls and wind contribute to increased avalanche danger," said Klassen in a news release.

"While not common, avalanche accidents and even fatalities have occurred in Eastern Canada when the conditions are right. People engaged in activities such as skiing, snowmobiling, and tobogganing should be aware of the hazard and take precautions."

The centre is urging people to avoid steep slopes, gullies and other places where sliding snow could push them into a creek or lake.

"Any slope that's more than 20 or 25 degrees of incline is suspect right now," Klassen said. "And this includes relatively small pieces of terrain like kids' tobogganing hills, which could produce an avalanche large enough to bury a child or even an adult if the terrain features are wrong."

Klassen said conditions should return to normal within a week as long as there isn't a significant snowfall.

With files from The Canadian Press