INVERMERE — A 34-year-old German skier was killed and another skier injured after being buried in an avalanche in the Purcell Mountains in southeastern British Columbia.
Columbia Valley RCMP said a group of skiers was out with a guide from RK Heliski when the slide occurred Monday just east of Jumbo Mountain, overtaking three men in the group.
“A heli guide assisted by other skiers in the group using beacons, recovered one male buried who received non-life threatening injuries. A second male was partially buried was rescued,” Staff Sgt. Marko Shehovac said in a news release.
The victim was recovered from beneath the snow but was unresponsive, he said.
“This male was immediately flown to Invermere Hospital by RK Heli ski helicopter, where attempts to revive him failed,” Shehovac said.
The man’s name was not released.
The skiers — all from Germany — were on their sixth run of the day when the slide occurred. The weather was good and all the skiers had been trained to use safety beacons before heading out.
“Assistance by the guide resulted in the quick recovery of the one person that was buried and survived,” RCMP said.
The B.C. Coroners Service is investigating and the cause of death was not immediately known.
Shehovac said the man’s friends helped police notify next of kin in Germany.
The slide was described to police as 150 meters wide, and approximately 300 metres down the mountainside.
There was no answer at RK Heliski on Tuesday.
Prior to the slide, photos were posted on the company’s website showing a co-ed group of skiers zig-zagging through fresh powder under sunny skies. The website reported excellent conditions for the group skiing glaciers and trees.
The website said RK, which is based at Panorama Mountain Village just outside Invermere, B.C., has been in operation for 43 winters.
The Canadian Avalanche Association’s forecast for the Purcell Mountains on Monday said the risk was considerable in the alpine and the treeline, and moderate below the treeline.
While there have been dozens of slides in B.C. this winter that have involved skiers and other backcountry users, the association reports only one previous fatality in October at a mine surveyor’s camp near Stewart, B.C., near the Alaska border.
Another man was able to escape the slide and was not hurt.
Avalanche fatalities have decreased sharply since the winter of 2008-2009, when 24 avalanche deaths were recorded in B.C. and Alberta. Nineteen of those fatalities were snowmobilers — eight of them killed in a single incident days after Christmas.
Mary Clayton, spokeswoman for the Canadian Avalanche Centre, said a stable snowpack this year may be one of the factors in the fewer number of avalanche deaths this year.
“The 10-year average in Canada is 14 deaths from avalanches every year. The last three years has been under that and this year there are only two so far. But winter’s not over yet.”