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Snowmobiler, 21, killed by avalanche in northern B.C.

An avalanche claimed the life of a snowmobiler in northern B.C. during the weekend.

Police say the incident happened Saturday afternoon in the Rocky Mountains, on Mount Stephenson near Chetwynd.

“Three men were sledding in the area of the bowl when one got stuck,” said Chetwynd RCMP. “As they were about to extract the snowmobile, an avalanche swept all three men away.

“Two of the men had avalanche gear and deployed their airbags. One of those two was buried slightly but quickly dug out. The third could not be immediately located.”

Police and Avalanche Canada say a probe-line search was conducted, with the 21-year-old victim being located around four feet under the surface.

“Sadly, he did not survive,” said police.

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The avalanche condition for the Chetwynd region is currently rated at Level 3 out of 5, along with all mountains in B.C.’s Southern Interior.

“This is a tragic reminder to all outdoors enthusiasts of the dangers of the backcountry,” said B.C. RCMP Staff Sgt. Kris Clark.

“If you’re heading out, please equip yourself with the right knowledge and gear to stay safe.”

Avalanche Canada said the avalanche happened in a chute at a treeline elevation of 1,750 metres.

“The east-facing start zone was reported to be wind-loaded,” said Avalanche Canada. “It is suspected to have failed on a layer of facets that formed earlier in January. The avalanche ran for approximately 250 metres.”

Also according to Avalanche Canada, it was the first avalanche fatality in B.C. this winter, but the second in western Canada.

On Nov. 11, an ice climber at Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Alberta was killed when a slab avalanche swept over the two-person party. One member was partially buried and was able to dig out, while the other member was fully buried and did not survive.

More information about avalanches is available on Avalanche Canada’s website.

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