A Nelson man survived a backcountry avalanche near an Alberta ski resort after calling for help in area that doesn’t usually have cell service.
Castle Mountain Resort, located in southern Alberta near the B.C. border, was alerted Friday afternoon at about 3:40 p.m. by a 911 dispatch that a skier had phoned for help in an area on what is considered the resort’s out-of-bounds backside. The incident was first reported by CBC and confirmed Monday by the Nelson Star.
Cole Fawcett, the resort’s sales and marketing manager, said the unidentified 38-year-old man was skiing alone in an area that Fawcett said is rarely accessed by anyone other than expert-level skiers. Castle Mountain’s inbounds area does not have cell service, but Fawcett said there is sometimes reception on clear days at high altitudes.
The avalanche survivor, Fawcett said, did not have a beacon and was fortunate to have reception.
“Really, really lucky that he was able to get that call through. That was huge.”
Two resort employees, Amanda Goodhue and Madeline Martin, who also volunteer for Southwest Alberta Regional Search and Rescue crew, hiked to the skier’s location and reached him at approximately 8 p.m.
Fawcett said the man’s injuries as well as the steep location led Goodhue and Martin to conclude the trio would spend the night sheltered on the mountain. They were provided supplies by other search and rescue members at 1 a.m., and then all three were air lifted by helicopter around 9 a.m. the next morning.
Fawcett and RCMP media relations officer Corp. Troy Savinkoff said the man suffered non-life threatening injuries to his neck and leg. Fawcett said the man has since been discharged by a Lethbridge hospital.
“That’s among the better if not best-case scenarios for sure. The real big bit of good fortune here was his ability to get a call out. He was in a situation where he was skiing alone. Had he not been able to get that call out, we had no report of anyone missing or injured. It was that call from 911 dispatch that alerted us to his situation and to his whereabouts.”
Several backcountry fatalities have already occurred this year in eastern B.C. due to avalanches.
On Jan. 9, two Nelson Police Department officers, Det. Wade Tittemore and Const. Mathieu Nolet, died due to injuries sustained in an avalanche while ski touring north of Kaslo.
Fawcett said there is less of a ski touring culture in the area around Castle Mountain Resort.
“Ski touring down here it, it exists, people do it, there’s no question about it,” said Fawcett. “But it’s much less well-travelled. It’s reasonably rare for us to hear of a significant number of incidences.”