Two men from Sherwood Park, Alta. – a community just east of Edmonton – have been identified as the victims killed when an avalanche rolled over their snowmobiles near Blue River, B.C., close to the Alberta border.
Kamloops Search and Rescue (KSAR) said the two men were snowmobiling on Monday and were part of a party of seven.
KSAR manager Alan Hobler said his team was called to assist Wells Gray Search and Rescue.
The group was equipped with rescue gear and the survivors were able to dig the two unresponsive men from the snow, but efforts to revive them failed.
Search and rescue officials and an RCMP helicopter helped recover the bodies.
The names of the two men have not been released.
Avalanche Canada official Joe Lammers is urging backcountry skiers and sledders to take special care because of the increased danger of slides toward the end of the season.
A 45-year-old man considered an icon of extreme snowmobiling in B.C. was also killed in an avalanche.
The coroners service said Daniel Davidoff was found dead Monday in mountains near his hometown of Castlegar, in south-central B.C. Regional coroner Larry Marzinzik said a search team found the man’s body on Tuesday morning near College Creek Forestry Rd., and determined he had been struck by a snowslide.
Many people have posted online tributes to Davidoff, who was dubbed the “Krazy Canadian” for his appearances in numerous snowmobiling films showing his enthusiastic participation in the backcountry sport.
Columbia Valley Search and Rescue confirmed it had been able to rescue two other Alberta men who were reported missing Monday in the Purcell Mountains. The mountains are more than 320 kilometres southeast of Blue River. The search team found them safe and sound Tuesday morning.
Twelve people have now died in avalanches in Western Canada so far this season.
Avalanche Canada said several avalanches are a few kilometres apart, so they are not necessarily linked.
“Although there’s something going on that’s leading to all these fatalities in the last few days, the snowpack structure and the specifics might be very different,” said Ilya Storm with Avalanche Canada.
“When you’re in the mountains and travelling in avalanche terrain, it’s important to understand the snowpack structure so that you can take the appropriate steps in terrain selection and group management to manage your risk.”
Storm said almost all of the fatalities this year from avalanches are snowmobilers. “I think that leads to some questions about what are the additional challenges that snowmobilers might be facing?” he said. “Things like the speed at which they travel means that decision making must be really rapid and rapid decision-making requires a higher level of skill.”
“Snowmobiles travel much farther in a day, than say, ski tours. A ski tour might cover 10 kilometres, a snowmobiler could easily cover 100 kilometres 10 times. Increased exposure requires improved or a higher level of decision-making.”
Storm said, despite the statistics so far this year, snowmobilers are by far the largest group of people who use the mountains.
About 7,000 to 8,000 people in B.C. take an avalanche skills training course every winter, but only about 10 per cent of these people are snowmobilers. “If snowmobilers do indeed make up the largest user group in the mountains, you’d think they’d be higher represented in terms of number of students taking courses,” said Storm.
-With files from CFJC, The Canadian Press