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One person killed in avalanche near Valemount

VALEMOUNT, B.C. — One person has died after two snowmobilers were caught in an avalanche south of Valemount, B.C. on the weekend.
The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police "E" Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., on Friday April 13, 2018. One person has died after a pair of snowmobilers were caught in an avalanche south of Valemount, B.C. Saturday morning. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VALEMOUNT, B.C. — One person has died in an avalanche that caught two snowmobilers over the weekend south of Valemount, B.C., not far from the Alberta boundary. 

Avalanche Canada says the snowmobilers were riding at the base of a slope in a feature known as Bowl 3 in the Oasis area when the avalanche happened on Saturday. 

"One person managed to ride away from the avalanche, while the other was fully buried. The survivor was able to locate the buried victim but they were found to be unresponsive," the avalanche forecaster said in a statement.

RCMP Cpl. Alex Bérubé says the investigation is being taken over by the BC Coroners Service.

Avalanche Canada forecaster Tyson Rettie said the avalanche was "remote-triggered," meaning even though the snowmobilers were on a less steep slope, their presence was enough to trigger the avalanche above them.

He said the snow gave way because of a weak "sugary" layer of snow crystals near the bottom of the snowpack that was buried in late November. 

That layer is fairly widespread throughout the province this season and has been responsible for a number of very significant avalanches, he said.

The same scenario is what led to a Jan. 9 avalanche that killed two Nelson Police Service officers near Kaslo, B.C., while they were skiing off duty, Rettie said. 

Const. Wade Tittemore, 43, died that day and Const. Mathieu Nolet died of severe internal injuries in hospital on Saturday. 

Nolet was 28 years old and had been with the Nelson force for a year. 

"Many professionals have been comparing this year's snowpack to that of 2003, and 2003 was a particularly dangerous year for avalanche accidents in Western Canada," Rettie said.

"Twenty-nine people were killed in avalanche accidents that year and several of those events involved multiple fatalities."

Rettie recommends people who want to be out in the backcountry choose mellow, conservative terrain with no steep slopes above. He said they should also bring along emergency equipment and safety gear. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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