Skiers, snowboarders urged to respect signs after avalanche at Sunshine Village Ski Resort

·2 min read
Skiers and snowboarders are being urged to respect signage on closed areas.  (Jenna Leith/CBC - image credit)
Skiers and snowboarders are being urged to respect signage on closed areas. (Jenna Leith/CBC - image credit)

The unseasonably warm temperatures this weekend appear to have triggered an avalanche Saturday at Sunshine Village Ski Resort near Banff, Alta.

While officials say no one was caught in the slide, they are urging skiers and snowboarders to obey signs marking areas closed due to avalanche concerns.

Kendra Scurfield, a spokesperson for Sunshine Village, said Saturday's slide was a Class 2 avalanche, large enough to bury or kill a person.

The slide happened shortly before 1 p.m. on Goat's Eye Mountain, in a run called the Mother-in-Law, which is on a southern-facing slope.

"It is extreme warm weather right now," Scurfield said. "Yesterday was about 14 degrees Celsius on the resort, and the sun was just really hitting some [of those slopes]."

She said the resort was in the process of closing the Mother-in-Law run due to heat-related avalanche concerns when the slide happened.

Although resort cameras showed no one in the area during that time, crews from Sunshine and Parks Canada did an extensive search of the slope, even using a search dog.

Special avalanche warning in effect

Much of the mountains across Alberta and British Columbia are currently under a special avalanche warning, which is set to run through Monday.

Avalanche Canada says the warm weather threatens to trigger large, destructive avalanches that could run to valley bottoms, capable of impacting hikers and mountain bikers.

Backcountry users were advised to be extremely cautious this weekend and stick to simple, low-angle terrain.

At Sunshine, Scurfield said they want skiers and snowboarders to enjoy the final weeks of the season, but she advised them to respect signage on closed areas.

"At this time of year, it's very common for conditions to change in an instant," she said. "And we are doing our best to make sure that we can provide a safe ski and snowboard experience."

Sunday was also expected to bring daytime highs above 10 C. Following a weak refreeze of snow overnight, the resort opted to keep all possible avalanche terrain closed.

Last weekend, a 21-year-old man died after a group entered a closed area of the Lake Louise Ski Resort and triggered a Size 3 avalanche.