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Seven skiers hurt in B.C. avalanche were on self-guided trip: industry group

Last Updated Feb 23, 2016 at 9:20 am EDT

GOLDEN, B.C. – Skiers injured in an avalanche is southeastern British Columbia were on a self-guided trip and aware of the risks when they were caught in the snow slide, says an official from a ski holiday company.

The avalanche northeast of Golden happened Sunday, the day after a 30-year-old Calgary man was killed when a slide hit four snowmobile riders in the same region.

Avalanche Canada issued a special warning Friday for the area about the possibility of “very large and dangerous avalanches.”

The six injured skiers, part of a larger group staying at Sunrise Lodge, were on a slope when the avalanche occurred near the treeline.

“We are very forthright about any avalanche warnings. In fact, as soon as the special advisory came out we were very proactive in issuing that,” John Bell, a spokesman for Golden Alpine Holidays, said Monday.

“We offered a lodge to be rented out to a group that made the decision. We are not there to tell them what to do.”

The warning recommended that backcountry users avoid large slopes above and at the treeline.

The injured were flown by helicopter to hospital and two were in serious condition.

The dead snowmobiler was identified as Nick Roberts, a Calgary Fire Department technician.

“He was a very valued member of our fire department family since joining our organization in 2013,” said Carol Henke, a fire department spokeswoman. “We offer our sincere condolences to his family and friends.”

Avalanche Canada said 90 to 95 per cent of slides are triggered by the people who become buried by them.

Roberts was the seventh person to die in an avalanche in B.C. this season.

Ilya Storm, a forecaster with the non-profit agency, said avalanche conditions can change quickly and there is always an element of risk when heading out into the backcountry.

Storm said the key is for people to be aware of the conditions, adjust their activities to stay safe and to be trained to deal with an avalanche.

Avalanche Canada officials said these deaths and injuries reflect a normal year in B.C.

“There were two really sad events this weekend, there were several more near-misses,” Storm said. “On the flip side there were still many, many people who were out this weekend who were effectively managing their risk.”

Barb McLintock with the BC Coroners Service said it is frustrating to deal with such deaths when groups such as Avalanche Canada and Parks Canada work hard to issue forecasts of the danger.

She wonders if part of the problem is people who come to the mountains from outside the region who may not hear of the warnings or disregard them because they want to make the most of their trip or holiday.

“Obviously this is a risk that is still not well understood,” she said.

“It is like impaired driving. Will we ever stop people from doing totally risky things? No we won’t.”

— By John Cotter in Edmonton