UPDATED: A 42 year old Australian female snowboarder has died after falling off a cliff in closed terrain at Whistler Blackcomb and triggering a Class 1 avalanche.
The woman had removed her snowboard and was walking in a cliff area at the time, she lost her footing and went over the cliff.
The woman was taken to Whistler Health Care Centre and died from her injuries. Her male companion was also rescued and believed to be in a stable condition.
The resultant Class 1 avalanche was triggered from a permanently closed area on Blackcomb Mountain above the Lakeside Bowl on a “steep rocky south facing slope”.
Class 1 avalanches are traditionally considered to be relatively harmless, sometimes referred to as sluff. These are enough to knock skiers and boarders off their feet and can be dangerous in steep terrain with cliffs, where it is believed the snowboarders were.
While this particular incident occurred in resort, Avalanche Canada has issued a warning for backcountry skiers in British Columbia’s South Coast and Vancouver Island region, effective until Sunday.
At issue is a weak layer in the snowpack that is currently buried about 50 centimetres deep. The next storm forecast for Friday is expected to bring another 10 – 15 centimetres of snow, before clearing for the weekend. The weak layer will remain fairly easy to trigger and with the added snow on top, the resulting avalanches could be deadly.
“We do not expect the snow to stabilize after the storm, which is unusual for the coastal mountains,” explains James Floyer, Warning Program Supervisor for Avalanche Canada.
“Human-triggered avalanches will be likely over the weekend, especially on steeper terrain. The clearing skies and fresh snow will be very inviting but we are urging backcountry users to be extra cautious during this period.”