Two men have been killed Wednesday and Thursday in avalanches on Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains. A 37-year-old man was killed on New Year’s Eve in an avalanche in a closed area of Blackcomb mountain. Whistler police got a call at around 8:30 Wednesday night as a report of an overdue skier. The man was last seen in the area of the Blackcomb Rescue Road at about 2 p.m. after skiing in the Ruby Bowl area.
At 9:35 a.m. Thursday, rescuers found the first man’s body.
Searchers confirmed the man had been killed by an avalanche.
The access point to Ruby Bowl was marked with signage indicating that the avalanche hazard was high and avalanche control in the area was minimal.
At about 3 p.m. Thursday, another man is reported to have died in the Secret Chutes area of Whistler Mountain, near the Symphony Bowl.
The man, 26, who was not a resident of B.C., had been boarding by himself out of bounds when he was buried in an avalanche.
The victims’ names haven’t been released pending notification of next of kin.
The victims are the third and fourth skiers or snowboarders to perish at the resort in ten days, and the ninth person this week to die in an avalanche in the province.
One week before the latest deaths, a 47-year-old Whistler man was killed within the ski hill boundaries when he skied into rocks on the upper section of Whistler’s Dave Murray Downhill run.
The Christmas Eve incident followed the death of 17-year-old Samuel Daigle, a Vancouver snowboarder who hit a boulder in a closed area of Whistler mountain on Dec. 22.
RCMP Staff Sergeant Steve LeClair said both men were found under two metres of snow.
Wednesday’s incident also comes just days after the tragic deaths of eight snowmobilers in a series of avalanches in southeastern B.C.
The Canadian Avalanche Centre Thursday issued a special avalanche warning that an exceptionally weak snowpack is causing “widespread avalanche danger.”
“The snowpack across much of BC and Alberta is unusually weak and the CAC has received many reports of avalanches triggered by recreational activity over the past 24 hours,” reads the warning.
“As new snow accumulates on top of this fragile base, more avalanches are certain.”
The warning includes the South Coast mountains from the U.S. border to Pemberton, the Columbia Mountains from Prince George to the US border, the Kootenay Boundary region and the southern Rockies.
The Canadian Avalanche Centre says that, from 1978 to 2007, an average of 11 avalanche fatalities occurred per year in Canada. Last winter season, 18 Canadians were killed in avalanches.
The worst year on record was the 2002 to 2003 season, when 29 Canadians died in avalanches. Before that, in 1997 and 1998, there were 21 deaths.
Factbox: The 2008 death toll on Whistler
Jan. 1: Curtis Green, a 29-year-old skier, was killed after an avalanche swept him off a 50-metre cliff in a permanently closed area of Whistler Mountain.
March 20: Ai Ito, a 25-year-old Japanese snowboarder, went missing near Blackcomb’s Seventh Heaven Chairlift, but her body wasn’t found for weeks. Police believe she unintentionally went beyond the ski area boundaries, suffered multiple injuries and became hypothermic.
March 27: Giancarlo Madella Amedi, a 31-year-old Italian snowboarder, fell off a 75-metre cliff after going beyond the boundary in Blackcomb’s Kelowna Bowl.
Dec. 22: Samuel Daigle, a 17-year-old Vancouver snowboarder, died after hitting a boulder in a closed area of the Ratfink/Marmot region of Whistler mountain.
Dec. 24: An unidentified 47-year-old Whistler resident died after skiing into rocks in an area of Whistler mountain that was open to the public.