regs, charges weighed in wake of B.C. avalanche

By Jim Stanford on March 16, 2010

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Slide path and debris on "Turbo Hill," as this part of the mountain is known.

An avalanche that killed two and nearly wiped out 200 snowmobilers west of Revelstoke, British Columbia, last weekend has prompted calls for closing the backcountry in times of high danger.

Royal Canadian Mounties also are investigating whether to press charges against event organizer “Ozone” Dave Clark of Calgary, who allegedly pressed ahead with the informal snowmobile competition called the Big Iron Shootout despite repeated avalanche warnings.

A crowd of sledheads had gathered for the Shootout on Boulder Mountain when high-marking ‘bilers triggered the massive slide. A wall of snow plowed into the crowd and sent spectators and sleds tumbling hundreds of feet. The pile of debris measured up to 15 feet deep, and the slide ran 1,100 feet in all.

Thirty-one people were injured, and the search and rescue effort cost an estimated $1 million.

Wrecked sleds litter the slope after the slide occurred.

From The Vancouver Sun:

“You could see people’s arms, legs and heads sticking out of the snow,” said Calgarian Dewinton Blair … “They were yelling for help and trying to get out. There were a lot of broken legs, arms and wrists.”

The carnage could have been worse. In past years the Shootout has drawn 3,000 snowmobilers; many stayed away this year out of fear of avalanche danger.

When Jackson Hole Mountain Resort opened its backcountry in 1998, skiers worried that a catastrophic event or series of deaths might force the resort or Forest Service to close the gates. So far the opening has worked out well, although there have been several fatalities and many close calls.

While Canadian lawmakers are considering more regulations, it’s unlikely a risk-related closure will be adopted. “You can’t legislate against stupidity,” said a local chamber of commerce director.

(Photos via Canadian Avalanche Center)

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Posted under Crime, Deaths, Environment, Sports

4 Comments so far

  1. D. March 16, 2010 8:20 pm

    Can’t fix stupid. Everyone made there own choice to go. PERIOD. END OF STORY.

  2. js March 16, 2010 8:49 pm

    There are some interesting legal questions here. Authorities are asking whether the snowmobilers who caused the slide should be charged.

    Can a skier who triggers a slide on top of you be held liable, for instance?

    If people disregard risk and a slide wipes out a big group, could access be restricted? Especially if rescue costs the public $1 million?

  3. D March 17, 2010 9:17 am

    That is the risk you take when you go into the BC. You have to consider stupid people, sad but true. Now is snow king rips next weekend we have a different story.

  4. Peter Muldoon March 17, 2010 12:39 pm

    You can’t outlaw stupidity. But you can outlaw some of the things that stupid people do. So, no, I hope that is not the end of the story.

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