The video of a snowmobiler narrowly escaping an avalanche in Eastern British Columbia posted on YouTube shows “everything you shouldn’t do.”
Mary Clayton, with the Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC), said her organization is using the video to raise awareness after the deadliest avalanche season for snowmobilers on record.
“This slope is exactly the type of slope where avalanches have been occurring,” Clayton said Monday. “Sun-affected slopes, a certain steepness, a thinner snowpack and you can see rocks and trees sticking out.”
The video, filmed on Saturday at the Monashee Mountains near Valemount, shows a snowmobiler following tracks left by previous riders up a hill. Just as he reaches the top, the slope fractures and both rider and machine are carried down in a very large avalanche.
John Kelly, CAC operations manager, said the unidentified rider “is incredibly fortunate.”
“You can see the person somehow ends up riding out at the bottom, so we know we’re not watching someone die,” he said. “But it very easily could have ended that way.”
Of the 24 avalanche fatalities this year, 18 have been snowmobilers — double the previous worst season when nine riders were killed in 2002-03. All but one of the fatal accidents this year have been in B.C.
Karl Klassen, public avalanche forecaster with the CAC, said the past winter was unusual.
“We had a fairly cold winter with periods of dry clear spells interspersed with snow storms,” Klassen said. “It’s during the clear spells that the snowpack weakens and then you get that weaker snow sandwiched between firmer layers of snow.”
He added that snowmobiles are improving, getting mightier and more powerful every year and the ability to travel more challenging terrains has improved.
“The avalanche knowledge has not increased at the same speed as the machines have progressed in their ability to tackle this terrain,” he said.