New ski pass rules enacted after B.C. avalanche deaths
Officials at B.C.'s Whistler-Blackcomb resort announced changes on Friday they hope will keep skiers and snowboarders away from out of bounds areas that may be at risk for avalanches.
The resort is adopting "a zero-tolerance" policy for anyone found in areas that have been blocked off to the public. The policy was put in place after two people died in avalanches that struck ski hills at the resort this week.
The men were killed on two separate runs, both of which were off limits because of avalanche threats.
The body of a 37-year-old Whistler man was found Thursday on Blackcomb Mountain on a ski run called Spanky's Ladder. An avalanche occurred there on Wednesday and a search was called after the skier was reported missing.
The second fatality occurred a few hours later on Whistler Mountain after an avalanche hit a ski course called Hidden Chute. RCMP said the victim was a 26-year-old man from outside B.C.
Resort senior vice-president of operations Doug Forseth told The Canadian Press that he and his staff can't build a "Berlin Wall" to keep the public away from risky locations. But he said the mountain will pull the lift passes of anyone found in restricted areas.
The resort has also suspended the sale of backcountry passes into neighbouring Garibaldi Provincial Park because of unstable avalanche conditions there.
Avalanche accidents 'preventable'
Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed told CTV's Canada AM on Friday the skiers who died this week were in areas that were clearly marked as at risk for avalanches. He said there was ample signage making them aware of the sections that were off limits.
"In these cases, both areas were areas where during normal operating times they would have been in bounds. But the boundaries were adjusted and clearly marked in these cases," Melamed said.
"Unfortunately, in this case, despite their best efforts to warn skiers of the hazard -- and mark the terrain -- this still happened ... Hopefully, this sends a strong message to those who are thinking of leaving the boundaries."
Officials at the mountain have been advising skiers that the avalanche risk is high and have marked some ski courses as out of bounds.
John Kelly of the Canadian Avalanche Centre told CTV Newsnet that many avalanche accidents are preventable.
"People need to be on top of current avalanche information," Kelly said.
He said that skiers and snowmobilers in backcountry areas should be prepared with proper rescue gear and take a training course on how to survive an avalanche.
"With these things under their belt most people will be able to safely use the backcountry areas," Kelly said.
CTV British Columbia's Sarah Galashan told Canada AM that one of the men appeared to have been prepared for the risks of an avalanche. The victim of the Whistler Mountain avalanche was carrying an emergency beacon that helps search and rescue crews track people who may be buried in snow.
RCMP Sgt. Steve LeClair told CTV Newsnet that the names of the victims have not yet been released. He added he doesn't want to see any more tragedies and that people who want to enjoy the mountains need to use good sense.
"Eventually, this danger will lessen and people can go and enjoy the backcountry. But right now, for your own safety, stay within the boundaries," he said.
Galashan said Whistler Mountain staff will inspect on Friday to the site of a third avalanche that also occurred within the last 48 hours. That one happened in an area that was not off limits, but no one is believed to have been injured in that incident.
Avalanche warnings have been in place throughout much of southern B.C. in recent weeks.
Eight men were killed on Sunday when they were struck by a series of avalanches while snowmobiling near Fernie, B.C.