Three people are dead and four more seriously injured after an avalanche in the B.C. Interior around noon on Wednesday, RCMP have confirmed.
A statement Thursday said a total of 10 people were caught in the avalanche while they were heli-sking in the area of Panorama Mountain Resort near Invermere, B.C., around 160 kilometres west of Calgary.
All of of the skiers were “foreign nationals,” police said, except for their guide. Their identities were not released.
The three remaining skiers have been safely accounted for. RCMP said the four injured skiers are expected to survive.
A spokesperson for the resort said the avalanche occurred outside of its boundaries, but it closed some of its upper lifts in order to support rescue personnel.
Highly volatile season
There have now been 12 avalanche fatalities in B.C. in 2023 so far, including a search-and-rescue volunteer killed alongside another skier in the Chilcotin region, two off-duty officers with the Nelson Police Department who were on a ski trip near Kaslo and two brothers from Pennsylvania who were on a guided heli-skiing trip in B.C.’s Interior.
Avalanche Canada has compared this season’s snowpack with conditions last seen in the winter of 2002-2003, when 25 people lost their lives in B.C.’s backcountry, making it one of the province’s worst years on record for avalanche fatalities.
Forecasters say this year’s snowpack, with a weak layer of sugar-like crystals buried near the bottom, is to blame for the dangerous conditions.
People heading into the backcountry are urged to check the avalanche forecast and make conservative decisions about which terrain they choose to explore. An avalanche transceiver, snow probe and snow shovel are essential, along with practice in their use, according to officials.