A woman was taken to hospital in Vancouver Sunday afternoon after she was rescued from an avalanche north of Mount Apps in the southern end of the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island.
Paul Berry, president of Comox Valley Search and Rescue (CVSR) said the organization received a call around 2 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 31) to assist a guided ski group touring the mountain. One of the group members was caught in a Size 2 avalanche – enough destructive potential to bury, injure or kill an individual.
The woman was fully caught in the avalanche and was buried in 1.5m of snow. Fortunately, explained Berry, the team was highly skilled and well-prepared with equipment and was able to perform a self-rescue. The group had shovels and beacons and were able to dig out the skier and tell rescuers where they were located and the nature of the injuries.
With the assistance of the Comox Valley RCMP Air 8 helicopter based out of Comox, members of the CVSR flew to the site and were inserted about 200m away from the ski group.
“Our team members skied down to meet them and packaged the woman into our vacuum splint and was then moved to the Courtenay Airpark where a helicopter with BC Ambulance was waiting.”
The rest of the ski group was able to ski back out, he added.
The woman suffered from multiple fractures in her legs and a dislocated shoulder.
According to the Vancouver Island Avalanche Centre (VIAC), the alpine, treeline and below treeline rating for avalanches on Vancouver Island are all rated at ‘high’.
They report multiple ski and snowmobiles triggered avalanches on the Island. The elevated avalanche danger ratings for the next three days are a result of strong precipitation and winds forecasted for the regions. New precipitation incoming may vary depending on the area.
The centre added for backcountry users, to keep an eye on snowfall rates, wind transport and rising temperatures, as this promotes slab formation and “touchy/easily triggered” conditions.
Berry said CVSR works hard with their training in order to prepare for both first aid and avalanche skills training, and have Level 2 avalanche technicians on their team.
He echoed VIAC’s report that there have been a number of reported avalanche events, and with the ratings set at high, so is the potential for human-triggered avalanches. He encouraged anyone who plans to head outdoors and into the backcountry to ensure they are well prepared with the correct equipment and communication beacons.