June skier airlifted off Vancouver Island mountain due to avalanche risk

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You might say June on the calendar, but that didn’t stop search and rescue volunteers from coming to the aid of a struggling skier on Vancouver Island.

Members of Comox Valley Search and Rescue (CVSAR) gathered on Saturday afternoon to help a lone skier who encountered difficulties on Mount Becher.

According to CVSAR’s Paul Berry, the 29-year-old was skiing solo and suddenly found herself in steep terrain and ran into difficulty.

“She left early this morning, well prepared, very experienced, but found herself in terrain with avalanches all around her, so at that point she decided to find a safe harbor and call help,” he said.

Berry says that decision was the right thing to do.

“We know that, given the conditions, avalanches in some terrain could go all the way to the ground today. These are spring conditions. We had rain and slightly warmer temperatures and if the slopes are higher than 27 degrees there’s a good chance they’ll let up,” says Berry.

The team had a location for the skier thanks to information they were able to provide via an inReach satellite communication device they had with them and believed they would have to perform a rope rescue to reach her.

Berry says he wasn’t surprised that despite the time of year, someone was still skiing.

“We know the snow accumulation is considerably higher than it normally would be due to the temperatures, so there are always people going skiing for the last time before the end of the season,” says Berry.

He says that while it was good that the woman was prepared, he recommends not going to such areas alone.

“We certainly recommend that whenever people go out into the backcountry they go with someone else, so if something goes wrong they have someone who can call for help, but we know there are a lot of people who like to have this solo experience,” Berry says.

The skier was reached and removed from the mountain without incident and was returned by RCMP helicopter to where she had left her vehicle.

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