Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Avalanche kills man in closed area of Whistler

Avalanche kills man in closed area of Whistler
Updated Tue. Jan. 1 2008 10:05 PM ET

The Canadian Press / Whistler mtn

A 29-year-old male skier died in the West Bowl area of Whistler Mountain early Tuesday when he and a snowboarder entered a permanently closed area and were swept over a 50-metre cliff by a small avalanche.

The unidentified skier died of injuries sustained in his fall, said Doug Forseth, senior vice-president of Whistler Blackcomb.

The 21-year-old male snowboarder survived the fall. He was airlifted to the Whistler Medical Clinic, where he was treated before being taken to Vancouver General Hospital for further treatment.

Forseth said the skier and snowboarder entered a dangerous area known as Hanging Roll, which is just west of the Peak Chair.

The area has been closed for 20 years and is clearly marked as a restricted area with permanent fence posts and three levels of wire

WHISTLER, B.C. -- The high risk of avalanches is proving deadly after one man was killed and another seriously injured, after going in a permanently closed area in Whistler.
RCMP say they believe the men triggered an avalanche by going in the remote area near West Bowl on skis and snowboards and were swept over a cliff. The area was marked as permanently closed and has been so for 20 years.
"It's an area that's signed as permanently closed, it says `passes will be revoked beyond this point','' said Staff Sgt. Steve Leclair. "It's an area within ski area boundary where people are not suppose to go.''
Leclair said the man on the snowboard was treated at the scene and airlifted to a Whistler clinic before being sent to hospital in Vancouver.
He suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries.
The other man, who was on skis, died of injuries police believe he sustained in the avalanche.
Names have not been released. Leclair said both men worked in Whistler.
He urged that people respect the out of bound signs as they're marked that for a reason.
"They can trigger avalanches that can put persons in the regular ski areas at risk, and ski patrol and the people who come to rescue them'' said Leclair.

Two men were killed after triggering an avalanche on Christmas Eve in British Columbia's interior. Travis Dillman and Derek Henderson were snowmobiling at a lake near 108 Mile Ranch with two others when a small avalanche hit.
They were digging themselves out when a larger one hit. Henderson was found dead by rescue crews that night, while Dillman's body was discovered the next day by a dog team.

Skier killed after being swept over cliff
>Snowboarding partner survived fall but may face charges
By Clare Oligvie Pique Newsmagazine

Police are gathering evidence to determine whether or not to recommend charges of criminal negligence against the survivor of an avalanche on Whistler Mountain New Year’s Day that killed his companion.

Both were in a permanently closed area near the top of the mountain.

The two triggered a small avalanche in an area known as Hanging Roll, west of the Peak Chair. The slide carried them over 75-metre cliffs to the West Bowl run below. Neither was buried by the avalanche.

The 29-year-old skier died, likely due to injuries sustained in the fall, and the 21-year-old snowboarder, Ben Moses, is now in Vancouver General Hospital recovering from serious but non-life threatening injuries.

“In this particular case we are actively investigating and if there is enough evidence for charges we will recommend charges to crown counsel,” said RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair of the Sea to Sky Policing Services.

“It is done on a case by case basis. There is a responsibility to attempt to change irresponsible behaviour at ski resorts.”

Whistler-Blackcomb’s senior vice president of operations Doug Forseth said it was up to police to determine if charges are warranted.

But, he said: “Anything that helps people get focused and paying attention (to this issue) is probably a good thing.

“There are permanent posts drilled into the rock and three levels of wire cable to make a fence and the area is posted as permanently closed,” Forseth said of the Hanging Roll area.

“You can’t just ski through that, you would clearly know.

“If we catch people in that area it is an immediate loss of pass. It is very dangerous.”

Forseth said the snowboarder, a pass holder, would lose his privileges for at least a year.

He would not confirm or deny whether either of the two people involved in the incident were Whistler-Blackcomb employees. Both were Whistler residents though Moses is from LaSalle, Ontario.

Ski patrollers were alerted to the accident by witnesses and rushed to the scene, arriving about 11:40 a.m. The accident happened about 15 minutes earlier. Efforts to revive the skier were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The snowboarder was taken off the mountain and transferred to the Whistler Health Care Centre and then on to Vancouver General Hospital.

Both the RCMP and the coroner are investigating and neither are releasing the names.

The family of the deceased skier has asked that his name not be released.

Full avalanche control was done on Sunday following some fresh snowfall. Only one centimetre of snow fell on Monday and winds were light.

While sending condolences to the family Forseth also said: “There is one very basic message here. The signage is out there for a reason. It is for their safety and we want people to give signage due respect.

“These are needless losses. There are so many places people can go to get good powder without putting yourself or others at risk.

“Hopefully some people will learn some lessons out of this harsh reality.”

This is not the first time that adventure seekers have been swept over the cliff, said LeClair, who has been patrolling on the mountains for 14 years.

In February 2001 two skiers were swept over the same cliffs though in that case both survived.

“I was on the scene for that one,” said LeClair.

“I have taken people out of there myself.

“People do go in there looking for that thrill and it is a fine line. It is a very, very, very, treacherous risky terrain in there and that is why it is closed.”

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