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Two Avalanche deaths at Whistler
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ArticleId: 2126 Written: 2009.01.01 by: Frank W. Baumann

A skier was killed yesterday (Dec 31, 2008) in an avalanche while skiing Ruby Bowl on Blackcomb Mountain- which was CLOSED at the time, and marked with signs warning of the HIGH avalanche danger.

Then a snowboarder was killed today in an avalanche that occurred on Harvey's Run at Whistler. The run is named after another skier who was killed in that same area many years ago.

All informed snow observers are extremely apprehensive about this year's snowpack- please do whatever you can to inform anyone that is heading out into the backcountry to be extremely careful.


Comments

#1138 - 2009.01.07 Shelley Wales - Signs all over the mountain right now
Frank is right the ski patrol up here are fantastic. I've been skiing Whistler for 25 years and have nothing but the utmost respect for them.

I've been up here skiing for the last week and there are signs posted all over the mountain telling people to stay in bounds and out of the backcountry due to dangerous conditions. I don't even believe the alpine on Whistler has been open yet due to the large amount of rocks still showing.

They are doing what they can. They are not a baby sitting service.

#1137 - 2009.01.06 Frank W. Baumann - Sign Confusion at Whistler
Scott may be correct- it is not clear if the areas where the two avalanche victims were killed were "out of bounds" or outside the ski area boundary, or were in a "closed" area. "Closed" areas are generally those within the ski area boundary where it is deemed to be dangerous, and where skiers and borders may lose their ski passes if they ignore the warning signs. Out of bounds areas are normally those outside of the ski area boundary where there is limited or no avalanche control, and where there is no normal ski patrol coverage. Some out of bounds areas, though, may be within the overall ski area boundary- for example, a run with a lot of rocks still showing may be marked as being out of bounds.

#1136 - 2009.01.05 Scott Nelson - Closed or out of bounds
All information I've seen about these incidents say that avalanches were in areas marked as "out of bounds" rather than "closed".

The CAC incident reports are here: http://avalanche.ca/Forums/Forums/t/3669.aspx and here: http://avalanche.ca/Forums/Forums/t/3660.aspx

#1135 - 2009.01.03 Steve Grant - A Bit of Hypocrisy, Perhaps?
I have doubts about how serious downhill areas are about policing out-of-bounds skiers. The out-of-bounds skiers provide invaluable research about where the ski areas should expand.

For instance, if Whistler was really serious about this issue, they would post a staffer on the road used to exit the Singing Pass trail. In reality, I've never heard of anyone being posted there, and in fact Whistler has been known to groom that road.

Part of the buzz about various ski hills is how good the out-of-bounds skiing is, and I see no effort by anyone in that industry to eliminate that sort of discussion.

So when I see the downhill areas wringing their hands about this problem, I think we're not hearing their whole story.

Closed areas WITHIN a downhill area are, of course, a different matter.

#1133 - 2009.01.02 Frank W. Baumann - The Whistler/Blackcomb Ski Patrol is as good as they get!
It concerns me that Whistler/Blackcomb is being unfairly maligned over the two recent avalanche deaths. Here are the facts as I see them:

1. There has NEVER been an avalanche death within the ski area boundaries since Whistler opened at Christmas in 1965 (43 years ago))!! I know- I've skied there every year since January, 1966. This is an amazing testimony as to how good the pro patrol really is, AND that avalanche hazard CAN be successfully managed. To be sure, they've had some very close calls- but no deaths!

2. The two recent avalanche deaths occurred in CLOSED areas marked with warning signs regarding the HIGH avalanche danger.

3. Those skiers or snowboarders that ignore CLOSED signs are not only ignoring the advice of seasoned avalanche experts on the Pro Patrol- they are also being very inconsiderate of other skiers, possibly with much less experience, who might follow tracks and be tempted to also ski into closed areas.

The conclusion is obvious: even during times of HIGH avalanche danger, you can ski perfectly safely by staying on marked and open runs within controlled ski area boundaries! Another point: Whistler/Blackcomb offers a FREE avalanche awareness course; contact them to get more information on how to participate in this most worthwhile program.