A group of skiers managed to rescue a companion buried an avalanche while backcountry skiing near Apex Mountain Sunday.
With the help of Penticton Search and Rescue and the Apex ski patrol, the injured skier was airlifted to safety.
PENSAR reports they were contacted by the Emergency Co-ordination Centre around 2:30 p.m. on March 4, with a report that a 35-year-old man had been buried in an avalanche east of Apex Mountain Ski Resort.
The group of four backcountry skiers reported that they had successfully rescued their partner after he had been buried by a rank 2.5 avalanche. The ski group had a SPOT emergency beacon and good cell service and were able to alert emergency personnel and maintain good communication while the rescue efforts were being coordinated. This allowed emergency personnel to assess key information on location and status of the injured skier who had survived the avalanche burial.
With daylight hours diminishing a small rescue team from Apex ski patrol was airlifted into the area, where they were able to ski in and locate the group and bring out the injured subject via helicopter. He was subsequently transferred to an awaiting ambulance at the resort. The subject injuries are not known but are not considered life-threatening.
Dale Jorgensen, the SAR manager who co-ordinated the response, said 14 PENSAR members were activated, and Osoyoos and Oliver Search and Rescue, as well as the Princeton team, were placed on standby.
Jorgensen said the situation, a high-risk scenario where avalanche risk is extremely high, trained avalanche response personnel were needed to assess and enter the area.
Though the event was outside of the Apex Ski Resort, Jorgensen said PENSAR co-ordinated the emergency response with Apex ski resort personnel along with a Ministry of Transportation avalanche technician who was also on site to assist in the evacuation.
SAR Teams advised that avalanche risks in the backcountry are high and that travellers need to be prepared and plan for any emergency. This was one of three rescue calls in the Okanagan Sunday, including a snowmobile rider suffering from a heart attack who was rescued by Central Okanagan Search and Rescue.