Conditions are turning deadly in the West Kootenay backcountry as the danger of an avalanche above the alpine is now rated considerable, according to the Canadian Avalanche Centre.
On Friday an Ontario man was killed in an avalanche near Revelstoke while on a heli-skiing excursion with 10 other skiers and a guide from Canadian Mountain Holidays.
RCMP said Ronald Greg Sheardown, 45, from Stouffville, triggered the avalanche as the group came down the Selkirk range, about 35 kilometres southeast of Revelstoke.
Reports of remotely triggered and easily triggered avalanches in the West Kootenay have increased, said a recent report from the CAC, although naturally-triggered avalanches are getting less frequent.
New snow has increased the slab depth above the alpine to 60-80 centimetres above the mid-December weak surface hoar layer.
“Natural avalanches and light triggers have resulted in wide propagations and large destructive avalanches,” said the report. “A skier remotely triggered an avalanche from 50 m. away and in many places shooting cracks and ‘whumphing’ are further indicators of a very touchy, unstable snow pack.”
Explosive control — used in the Kootenay Pass last Tuesday — is producing avalanches up to size 2.5 at 2,000 metres
Police said three of the four skiers who were buried Friday escaped, but Sheardown was unconscious when he was uncovered, dying later in hospital.
The Revelstoke death was the second backcountry skier to be killed in B.C. last week. A backcountry guide, Duncan MacKenzie, 30, was injured in an avalanche and trapped in the mountains Thursday night near Pemberton, nine hours northwest of Trail.
On Monday, two skiers caught in a backcountry avalanche near Pemberton were rescued, and police say one of the men suffered injuries to his head and leg.