Four U.S. skiers including one from Spokane were rescued from an avalanche that occurred Thursday while skiing with a guided snowcat operation near Rossland, British Columbia.
Paula Gaul, co-owner of Big Red Cats based in Rossland said that after a difficult rescue in harsh terrain on Mount Mackie, the four skiers suffering broken bones were transported to Spokane hospitals. The skiers had to be brought off the mountain through trees in toboggans because weather conditions prevented helicopter access, she said.
She released no further information on the names, the extent of the injuries or current condition other than to say the Spokane skier had the most extensive injuries.
“They were a guided group of 12 skiers, a strong group in difficult, cliffy terrain,” Gaul said. “The 12th skier down (the run) triggered the slide. Not everyone in the group was involved.”
She said the other three U.S. skiers were not from Spokane.
The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center had rated the avalanche danger as moderate in the Selkirk Mountains in its avalanche advisory posted on Friday.
The avalanche occurred about 2:30 p.m. and the rescue wasn’t complete until 8:30 p.m., Gaul said. “They got the most injured skier (from Spokane) out sooner,” she said.
Big Red Cat has had one other avalanche involving its skiers during its 13 years of operation, she said, “but this is the first involving such a difficult evacuation.”
Local search and rescue teams were not called in as the company’s own crew was able to complete the extrication and ski them out on rescue sleds to the snowcat, Gaul said.
“The four of them went by ambulance (to Trail),” she said. Then they ended up going by ambulance to Spokane.
Gaul said the company was investigating the incident and did not take out tours Friday, but was planning to be back in action this weekend.
According to the Big Red Cats website, the company is one of the biggest snowcat operations in the world.
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