B.C. avalanche kills one; RCMP believe more possibly buried

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A massive avalanche in British Columbia's mountainous backcountry on Friday killed at least one snowmobiler and possibly buried an unknown number of others in the second deadly slide in the area in the past week.
The RCMP said the search had ended for the night and would resume Saturday morning on Eagle Pass Mountain west of Revelstoke, not far from where two snowmobilers were killed and 31 were injured in a slide last weekend.
"The search will resume with the anticipation of finding other persons buried," said Cpl. Dan Moskaluk.
"It looks like there would have been two people up on the hillside when the slide occurred, with a small group or groups gathered at the bottom of the hill."
Moskaluk said police haven't been able to confirm how many people might have been on the mountain, and RCMP officers have been searching parking lots in the area to determine who, if anyone, might be unaccounted for.
Another snowmobiler suffered minor injuries, said Moskaluk.
He said it was a Category 4 avalanche, which the Canadian Avalanche Centre lists as its second-largest rating, and was likely human-caused.
The avalanche centre's website says an avalanche of that size can have a mass of 10,000 tonnes, travel two kilometres and would be powerful enough to destroy a railway car or several buildings.
The centre's forecast for the weekend puts the avalanche risk at moderate to considerable.
Last weekend, there was a less-powerful avalanche on another mountain in the area as about 200 people attended an informal rally known as the Big Iron Shoot-Out.
A report from the Canadian Avalanche Centre said the death toll would have been higher than the two who were killed if not for a quick response from emergency officials and luck.
The centre said last weekend's slide was almost certainly caused by people, noting witnesses said there were snowmobilers high-marking at the time. High-marking involves riding up steep slopes to see who can reach the highest point, and it's an activity that has been blamed for other avalanches in the past.
Bruce Moores was also at Eagle Pass on Friday, but he said he wasn't near where the avalanche occurred. He said it's one of the largest snowmobiling areas in the region.
"It's pretty tragic," Moores, who is president of the Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club, said from his home in Sicamous, about an hour's drive west of Revelstoke.
Moores said it's not unusual for snowmobilers to take to the back country in the face of avalanche warnings, which he uses to determine where and how to ride, rather than prevent him from going at all.
"It doesn't really affect my decision to go sledding, it's how I sled, the activity I do when I get there," he said.
"We did a lot of sledding in the trees, which is a safer option. We didn't traverse any large hills. When we were travelling from one area to another, we judged where we went so that if that slope was to move, we were well away from it."
Last winter, 75 per cent of the 26 people killed in avalanches in western Canada - most of them in B.C. - were snowmobilers.

Organizations: RCMP, Canadian Avalanche Centre, Big Iron Shoot-Out Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club

Geographic location: B.C., Eagle Pass Mountain, Revelstoke British Columbia Sicamous Canada

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