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Backcountry Skier Rescued from Avalanche near Whitewater

A skier from France was rescued from the surrounding backcountry area known as Evening Ridge near Whitewater Ski Resort after being involved in an avalanche Thursday, January 4, 2018. — The Nelson Daily file photo

A skier from France sustained life-threatening injuries after being engulfed in an avalanche near Whitewater Ski Resort Thursday Whitewater staff said in a media release.

The release said the avalanche occurred in surrounding backcountry area known as Evening Ridge, located near of the resort.

“On January 4, 2018 at 12:41 p.m. a member of the public informed Whitewater Ski Resort’s Snow Safety staff of a possible avalanche incident in the surrounding backcountry area known as Evening Ridge,” the release said.

“Whitewater’s Snow Safety team investigated and then initiated an organized response with Nelson Search and Rescue (NSAR) supporting the rescue efforts.”

Whitewater release said the avalanche occurred on a steep open slope that the group had ski toured to from the access road of the resort.

“One member of a party of three men dropped into the start zone of a face that triggered a Size 3 avalanche which carried the one skier down the slope approximately 300 meters until he was hung up in some small trees,” the release said.

Avalanche Canada describes a Size 3 avalanche as medium rating that could bury a car, destroy a small building or break trees.

“The injured skier, a 30-year-old male from France, was reached by rescuers where they proceeded to stabilize and package the victim for transportation from the scene,” the release added.

Whitewater said the skier was then lowered down the avalanche path by rescuers to a safer area and extracted before dark off the slope by a rescue winch helicopter from Vernon.

“The injured person was flown to Trail airport and rushed to the hospital where he sustained serious life-threatening injuries.”

The Whitewater release said on the date of the incident Avalanche Canada was rating the backcountry hazard as “Considerable at tree line elevation”, which is where the incident occurred.

“A Considerable hazard rating means dangerous avalanche conditions exist and conservative decision making is essential,” the release said of the Avalanche Canada rating.

“If traveling in the backcountry it is always strongly recommended that skiers and snowboarders check avalanche.ca for updated avalanche danger ratings and warnings.

"With conditions rapidly changing due to recent warming, added snow and increased wind has added stress to the deeper weaknesses in the snowpack, thus increasing the hazards in the backcountry."

On its website, Whitewater Ski Resort lists a page for Avalanche Education, complete with numerous courses for the public interested in venturing outside the ski boundaries.

Whitewater Ski Resort, located south of Nelson on Highway 6 in the mountains below Ymir Peak, known for its legendary deep powder and endless terrain, on average receiving more than 12 metres/40 feet of snow every season.