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Local SAR teams respond to pair of avalanche calls, minor injuries reported

Nelson SAR was kept on New Year's Eve, dealing with avalanche calls near Evening Ridge and Kootenay Pass. — Photo courtesy Nelson SAR Facebook

Search and Rescue teams from Nelson and Castlegar were kept busy over the New Year’s holiday, responding to a pair of calls for service near Evening Ridge near Whitewater Ski Resort and Kootenay Pass a Facebook post by Nelson SAR said.

Nelson SAR said both calls occurred on New Year’s Eve — an avalanche on the ‘Whales Back’ of Evening Ridge near Whitewater Ski Resort and an SOS call from Kootenay Pass.

“The first call came at 2 p.m. from Whitewater Ski Resort with a report of a significant Size 3 avalanche outside their ski area,” Nelson SAR post said.

Nelson SAR said seven people were involved in the incident, however Whitewater Ski Patrol were able to quickly determine that none in the ski party was buried or injured.

“NSAR conducted a visual search using a helicopter while Whitewater Patrol checked for transceiver signals and concluded that no other groups were caught in this popular backcountry ski area,” Nelson SAR said.

“Whales Back is adjacent to the slope on Evening Ridge where an avalanche occurred earlier in the week, involving (four) 4 people and (two) 2 dogs.”

Avalanche Canada said on its website the the Whales Back slide as more than 500 meters wide, with the avalanche wiping out 30-year-old timber and the debris piled six meters deep. 

"The previously tracked slope was triggered from on top of a ridge/rib feature, where the snowpack is likely thinner," Avalanche Canada site said.

"This is a good example of smart terrain travel as the skier who triggered it from the rib was not caught in the avalanche."

Nelson SAR said second call came to assist Castlegar SAR at 3:30 p.m. while the NSAR teams were still involved in the avalanche search.

“An SOS signal had been sent from a group of (six) 6 below Lightning Strike Ridge at Kootenay Pass,” Nelson SAR said.

“Teams were reassigned to this incident that involved a knee injury to one person.”

Nelson SAR said with lack of light for a helicopter evacuation and temperatures again dropping below -20, ground teams were able to rescue the subject and hand him off to the BC Ambulance waiting on Highway 3A near Kootenay Pass summit.

Nelson SAR said all 15 members of Nelson and Castlegar SAR were home by 11:30 p.m., in time to ring in the new year with families.

The Avalanche Canada website said danger rarting remains "high" for alpine and treeline sections of the backcountry in the Kootenay Boundary region and "considerable" for below treeline.

Nelson and Castlegar SAR teams respond to a SOS call near Kootenay Pass on New Year's Eve. —  photo courtesy Nelson SAR Facebook