“Here’s to the boys.” Two-thousand mourners shouted out that phrase in unison yesterday in a vocal tribute to eight snowmobilers who were swept to their deaths in a string of avalanches a week earlier.

To the strains of bagpipers mourners filed in to the local hockey arena, in Sparwood, B.C., where the photos of the eight men stood on a makeshift stage.

Through the tears, a celebration of the lives and the passions of the men came shining through. Smiling pictures of Daniel Bjarnson, 28, Kurt Kabel, 28, Warren Rothel, 33, Kane Rusnak, 30, Thomas Talarico, 32, Blayne Wilson, 26, Michael Stier, 20, and Michael’s 45-year-old father, Leonard Stier, lined the back of the podium.

Brand new Arctic Cat snowmobiles were proudly displayed on each end of the podium as the community embraced the fact snowmobiling was a passion for the men, who died after a series of fearsome snowslides in a mountainous backcountry area named Harvey Valley.

A group of 11 snowmobilers was hit by repeated slides up to five metres in height that came thundering down the slope at 150 kilometres per hour.

Jeff Adams, James Drake and Jeremy Rusnak made it out to safety after digging themselves and each other out of the hard-packed snow, sometimes with just bare hands.

Officials had predicted up to 7,000 people would attend the memorial but the turnout appeared to be significantly smaller, likely due to poor weather in the area.

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