'Mother Nature is the boss': Students delayed at camp after road blocked by avalanche

·3 min read
Tiny Town is named after a collection of heated cabins used by backcountry skiers. Yukon Heli Ski said the camp is well-prepared to handle a delay, and that it has plenty of firewood, food and water. (Peter Wright/Yukon Heli Ski - image credit)
Tiny Town is named after a collection of heated cabins used by backcountry skiers. Yukon Heli Ski said the camp is well-prepared to handle a delay, and that it has plenty of firewood, food and water. (Peter Wright/Yukon Heli Ski - image credit)

A group of Yukon students is preparing to return home after an avalanche blocked road access to their ski camp.

The students stayed out an extra night in cabins and were "happy, healthy, warm and safe" the entire time, said Michelle Beckley, the mother of one of the students.

The students left on Saturday for the camp called Tiny Town, which is accessible from the South Klondike Highway, south of Fraser, B.C.

Yukon Heli Ski welcomed eight students this year to its annual camp in northern B.C.'s White Pass.

This year's class was joined by 12 adults working as guides, instructors and volunteers. The camp involves skiing, avalanche safety training, and talks about careers in nature, tourism and aviation.

Tiny Town is named after small chalets available for rent by heli-skiers.

The camp was supposed to wrap up on Sunday, but an avalanche blocked the South Klondike Highway, south of Carcross, Yukon.

Without road access, the students camped an extra night in the heated cabins.

Beckley said parents communicated with the camp by satellite phone. She said the camp is an "amazing program" and a "big experience," for her 12-year-old daughter.

"It's a little bit nerve-wracking, but I know she is in safe hands. They've been in good contact since they could get their satellite phones going. We're all eagerly waiting," said Beckley.

"Everybody seems in good spirits and nobody seems very worried," she added.

A program called Yukon Heli Ski welcomed eight students this year to its annual camp in Northern B.C.'s White Pass.
A program called Yukon Heli Ski welcomed eight students this year to its annual camp in Northern B.C.'s White Pass. (Peter Wright/Yukon Heli Ski)

Mikhaela Meznaric, a volunteer with Yukon Heli Ski, said the camp had everything needed to get through the delay, including firewood, food and water.

The camp's goal is to expose Indigenous young people to "career paths that allow youth to be connected to their land," said Meznaric. She said the delay is a good reminder that "mother nature is the boss" in the White Pass.

"It's a great lesson for the kids and a great lesson in how to be prepared, to not panic," she said.

Conditions too blustery for helicopter

Meznaric said Whitehorse-based Horizon Helicopters had offered to pick up students on Monday.

However the weather made that impossible.

A new arrangement with Yukon Highways and Public Works will see the students escorted across the road which remains closed.

"It turns out to be a blustery day. We were in touch with Highways, and it turns out they're going to open the road for about an hour. They're all going to have a bite of dinner and then we'll truck them through the closed road to to meet their parents on the other side," Meznaric said Monday afternoon.

The South Klondike Highway was impassable as of publication time, according to Yukon511.

While Tiny Town is in B.C., Meznaric said the students will not be required to self-isolate upon return to Yukon, because of the camp's close proximity to the territory. The territorial government has made exemptions for certain people from border communities such as Atlin and Fraser, B.C.