Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2000-12-29
Submitted By: Frank W. Baumann
Place: Pine Pass area, about 200 km north of Prince George
State: BC
Country: CANADA
Fatalities: 2
Summary: 2 snowmobilers caught buried and killed

Two snowmobilers were killed on Friday, December 29, 2000 by a large

avalanche in the Pine Pass area, about 200 km north of Prince George,

B.C. A third snowmobiler managed to escape the slide and get help but

the victims were not located until the next day, buried under several

metres of hard-packed snow that likely resulted in death by physical

trauma. Avalanche forecasts are not provided for this area of B.C., but

in the North Columbia Mountains to the south, the avalanche hazard

rating was reported to be "High". British Columbia in general is

experiencing some of the potentially worst avalanche condtions in years,

mainly due to the widespread presence of faceted crystals that formed in

November as a result of a long, cold spell that metamorphosed the

shallow early winter snowpack. These faceted crystals are now being

loaded with significant amounts of new snow, creating potentially

dangerous avalanche conditions that will persist for weeks, or possibly

even months. With the explosion in the popularity of winter

recreational activities (especially snowmobiling) over the past few

years without a commensurate increase in avalanche knowledge, this

year's unusual conditions will likely cause many more such accidents to

occur. Winter recreationists, and especially out of bounds skiers and

riders, should be aware that many areas that have been relatively safe

in the past, will be dangerous this year. Venturing into such areas is

an invitation to disaster, and an avalanche transceiver, probe, and

shovel will only provide a false sense of security, and make finding

bodies easier.

Frank W. Baumann