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Avalanche buried a sledder who was rescued by friends in Elk Valley

A sledder was rescued by his two companions and escaped injury after being buried in an avalanche for three minutes in the Flathead last weekend.

The incident is a timely reminder of the importance of making sure your backcountry trip companions could rescue you, according to the Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC), which holds its annual Avalanche Awareness Days next weekend.

According to an anonymous incident report sent to the CAC, the avalanche happened last Saturday in the Shepp Creek headwater area of the Flathead Valley, near Lodgepole creek, at 7,000 metres elevation.

The Free Press requested an interview with the sledders through the CAC, but they did not wish to comment.

The sledder, who was in a group of three, was on his first ride up a 200 metre, steep, lightly-treed slope with bare rock cliffs above, when a slab of snow let go above the sledder at the base of the cliffs.

The report says: “Snow knocked sledder downward. Sledder remained tangled with sled moving down slope approx. 30 metres while trapped underneath sled and snow, stopping against a tree.

“Handlebars and one hand of sledder remained exposed above snow. Sledder unable to move, dig out or create air pocket and lost conciousness approx one minute after burial.

“The two rescuers dug out the sledder who was found unconcious approx. three mins after burial.

“Shortly after exposure to air, sledder regained conciousness with no major injuries.”

A photo of the widespread avalanche debris was also sent to the CAC.

Forecasting manager at the CAC, Karl Klassen, said the incident is a good example of a successful companion rescue, which the centre encourages all backcountry users to be prepared to carry out.

“In Canada, most times if you have to call in a rescue team, especially to a remote place like the Flathead, it will take hours for them to get there.

“So the message we are constantly going on about is you need equipment, training and you need to practice a rescue response as a group before you set out.

“It looks like that’s what happened here and that’s why they were able to get this person out before it was too late.”

 

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