Search and rescue crews were scrambled Wednesday afternoon to save an injured skier caught in an avalanche near Red Mountain in Rossland.
The man was among a group of four people skiing in the backcountry near Mount Kirkup, just outside the boundaries of Red Mountain Resort, when the avalanche occurred.
Two people in the party were caught in the avalanche and partially buried. One skier extricated himself but was unable to free the other.
The skier then headed across the difficult terrain to the highway.
“It took him about 45 minutes to the point where he could get to a road and have cell coverage and was able to contact help,” said Graham Jones of Rossland Search and Rescue (SAR).
The Red Mountain ski patrol was closest to the scene and five of its members responded at about 2:30 p.m., Jones said.
“They went in with a toboggan and extracted the injured gentleman,” he said. “They put in an extremely difficult and demanding job to get to the site, and were able to stabilize and load him.”
By then a SAR team had arrived and deployed snowmobiles to help in the recovery effort.
The injured skier had to be moved out by sled to the highway and was taken by ambulance for treatment.
“The ski patrol consisted of five of their really well-qualified and best-trained people,” said Jones. “The man was lucky he had the ‘A-Team’ of ski patrol people able to respond as quickly as they did.
“It worked out really well. It could have gone sideways really easily.”
The rescue operation finished at about 6 p.m. There was no word on the injured skier’s condition Thursday.
Jones said it’s important for people to be aware of backcountry conditions and be prepared for avalanches.
“The new snow we had, the type of terrain, even though the avalanche rating was moderate — that’s a general description,” he said.
“If you look at specific areas where there is different land formation, or outcrops, or lack of trees or there’s wind channels, where snow can pile up over surrounding terrain, it can be much more dangerous.
“No one plans to get caught in an avalanche. Bring transceivers, probes, shovels, skins for your skis,” he added. “Those who go out of bounds without that equipment are foolhardy and setting themselves up for possible major issues.”