BANFF – Three backcountry skiers had a lucky escape after an avalanche carried them 100 metres down a gully on Mount Patterson in Banff National Park on Monday (Oct. 29).
One of the skiers, Cam McLellan, sustained a head injury and was taken by ambulance to Banff’s Mineral Springs Hospital, while his two buddies Noah Bangle and Jeremy Laporte sustained minor injuries.
The skiers were hit by a size two avalanche in a steep gully, which is enough to bury, injure or kill a person. No one was buried.
In an Instagram post, McLellan said he was found by his friends unconscious and not breathing but was revived quickly.
“We were throttled by a rather large avalanche and it knocked us all down hard,” he wrote.
“I ended up in the Banff hospital with 11 stitches in my head, a broken rib and hematoma behind my ear. I am beyond lucky that I got away with those injuries,” he added.
“Big thanks boys and a big thanks goes out to the Parks Canada team for getting me outta there.”
The three men in their early 30s were ski touring skiing a popular couloir that leads to the east ridge of Mount Patterson, north of Bow Summit off the Icefields Parkway, when the avalanche came down about 11 a.m..
An inReach device – a satellite communication tool that allows two-way communication and can trigger an SOS signal – alerted Parks Canada rescuers to the situation and they were able to get to the scene quickly.
All three skiers were equipped with avalanche safety gear, including a shovel, probe and beacon.
“They were not buried. They were very lucky,” said Parks Canada spokesperson Lesley Matheson, noting McLellan was not wearing a helmet but the other two were.
While winter is still several weeks away, snowfall in higher elevations has created early season avalanche conditions.
“We’re just reminding people that even though it’s October that the alpine snowpack is deep and avalanche hazards exist,” said Matheson.
“We want people to expect fresh slab avalanches following storms and to avoid steep, sunny slopes.”
To get the latest on avalanche conditions, go to www.avalanche.gc.ca
“We want to remind people that they’re responsible for their own safety in the backcountry and should carry the appropriate gear,” said Matheson.