VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – All the avalanches that killed snowmobilers over the past five years occurred in British Columbia, but two-thirds of the victims were from Alberta.
Avalanche Canada says March is the deadliest month for snowslides and it is focusing its safety message on Alberta’s snowmobilers this year.
The avalanche safety organization says of the 45 people who were killed in avalanches over the past five years, 24 were snowmobiling.
It says about 66 per cent of the snowmobiling victims were male Alberta residents, and of those, 73 per cent were from communities within 150 kilometres of Edmonton.
Last year, 12 of the 15 people who died in avalanches were snowmobilers, including five Alberta men who died in a major slide near McBride in January 2016.
Curtis Pawliuk, the general manager of the Valemount and Area Recreation District, a popular destination for Alberta snowmobilers, says far too often he sees terrain choices that do not fit the conditions.
“These people are getting lucky. While the snowmobile community has come a long way, we need to start seeing greater buy-in and respect for the hazards of the backcountry,” he says in a statement.
Gilles Valade, executive director of Avalanche Canada, says unlike other user groups, snowmobiling avalanche deaths are showing a clear pattern.
“When we see such a cluster in terms of place of residence, it raises a concern that our safety messages aren’t reaching the people who clearly need it most,” he says.
Valade urges anyone going into the backcountry to take an avalanche skills training course offered by his organization. More than 8,000 people take the training each season, but less than 15 per cent are snowmobilers, he says.
Avalanche Canada says everyone in the backcountry needs to have an avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel, and is asking people to check its website for training courses and avalanche conditions.