Twenty years after surviving a deadly avalanche in the backcountry of British Columbia, Ken Wylie is urging people to be careful and aware in the face of an equally unstable snowpack this year.
“Just accept it’s a tough season and plan accordingly,” he said from his home in Mill Bay on Vancouver Island.
“And stick to the plans you make around it. Don’t let these planes erode as you tickle the snowpack to ever-increasing incline.
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Wylie was one of 13 victims of the January 2003 avalanche north of Revelstoke, British Columbia. Seven people died.
Experts have compared this year’s snowpack, with a faint layer of sugar-like crystals buried near the bottom, to that of 2003, when avalanches in western Canada killed 29 people, most in British Columbia .
Five people have died in three avalanches in British Columbia so far in January.
Avalanche Canada, a forecasting, training and safety agency, says the layers are deep enough that people are less likely to see signs of instability, but there is still serious potential for large avalanches triggered by the male.
Wylie, who was an apprentice guide in 2003, said he bore some responsibility for what happened on that trip, including not listening to a member of the group who he said was unwell. comfortable with the situation before the avalanche.
Here is a timeline of avalanche events this season:
- December 31st : A skier sustains life-threatening injuries in a slide near Emerald Lake in southeastern British Columbia, near the Alberta border.
- January 5: Avalanche Canada warns of a delicate snowpack, with various weak layers created by long periods of drought and cold weather. “Runners triggered large, frightening avalanches with significant consequences,” the notice reads.
- January 9: Two off-duty police officers are caught in an avalanche near Kaslo, British Columbia, while backcountry skiing. const. of the Nelson Police Department. Wade Tittemore, 43, dies and Const. Mathieu Nolet, 28, suffers from serious internal injuries.
- January the 21st : Nolet dies from his injuries in the hospital.
- January the 21st : Two snowmobilers traveling at the base of a hill near Valemount, British Columbia, accidentally trigger an avalanche from above, sending a patch of snow at one while the other escapes. The buried rider is found unconscious and dies.
- January 23: Heliskiers and their guide are caught in an avalanche near Revelstoke, British Columbia. The two guests came out of the snow unresponsive and were both pronounced dead in hospital. The guide is taken to hospital in stable condition.
- January 23: A slip falls on a person near Cherryville, British Columbia. Emergency health services say the person is taken to hospital with undetermined injuries.
- January 24: American brothers and businessmen Jonathan and Timothy Kingsley are identified by Pennsylvania-based Kinsley Construction as the victims of the landslide near Revelstoke on January 23.
“That responsibility brought healing, didn’t it? I have nothing to defend or oppose. I am no longer the person I was making those decisions and those choices,” he said.
“I had a maturation that was necessary and, unfortunately, it took tragedy to underpin that maturation.”
Wylie now offers risk management training to help others see risk, speak up in difficult situations and make better choices.
He said people in the backcountry need to speak up if they see others in their group taking risks.
“I think us individually, we don’t want to be the party poopers,” he said.
“But we’re in a position as a member of a band where we face consequences, and I think it’s easy to forget that.”
Still, he worries that the longer BC’s snowpack stays as it is, the harder it will be for people to make those safer choices.
“We are inherently impatient and we live in a society where we are constantly used to having our desires fulfilled instantly,” he said.
“So, yes, my opinion is that the longer this goes on, the harder it will be for people to make conservative choices.”
Pascal Haegeli, an avalanche safety researcher at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, said he expects the weak snowpack to be there for the rest of the season.
Because of the low layer burial depth, it’s unlikely to see the kind of warmer temperatures needed to help the snow pack more tightly, he said.
Haegeli said the extreme weather that comes with climate change makes snow conditions less predictable, something those using the backcountry will have to get used to when planning trips.
“It’s more difficult for people going into the backcountry to rely on their past experience to make decisions,” he said.
Avalanche Canada reminds everyone going into the backcountry to always check avalanche forecasts, have essential rescue equipment, and be trained in how to use it.
© 2023 The Canadian Press