Thea Pelletier pauses while being interviewed after snowmobiling with her husband at Mount Renshaw near McBride, B.C. on Saturday. (Photo: Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Clint Pelletier of Edmonton loads his wife's snowmobile onto a trailer after snowmobiling at Mount Renshaw near McBride, B.C. on Saturday. (Photo: Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)Her first reaction was "total shock," she said. When she and her husband returned to McBride, they went to dinner at one of the town's few restaurants and found it packed with a sombre crowd. "It was pretty heavy in there," she said, after listening to rescuers describe pulling bodies and 12 survivors from the snow. "They were just debriefing over a beer." But the couple still chose to head out the next morning on the mountain where the tragedy occurred, despite noticing that other sledders were switching to other venues.
Pelletier admitted feeling trepidation, but was confident they were taking proper precautions. She checked an app that showed the avalanche danger rating, hung an SOS beacon from her neck, and carried a probe and shovel. "I guess I'm a risk-taker. But you have to take calculated risks," she said, adding that weather conditions were about the same as the previous day. Though she and her husband steered well clear of the avalanche site, from one vista they could still see vast cracks where snow bowls had been disturbed. "You've got to go through a lot of sketchy areas to where those guys ended up," she said. During a news conference earlier in the day, RCMP Cpl. Jay Grierson described the victims as "very experienced and prepared."
"It was pretty heavy in there."
A vehicle passes a sign showing an avalanche hazard warning of "considerable" at a parking lot where snowmobilers embark from near Mount Renshaw outside of McBride, B.C. on Saturday. (Photo: Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)Pelletier was nowhere near the victims the day they died, but said she had often witnessed "showboating and a lot of testosterone" displayed in the male-dominated sport. "When you go in big groups, I think there's a mentality of one-upping each other," she said. "We saw (the avalanche area) and said, 'Why would you ever go up there?'" Search and rescue manager Rod Whelpton, who helped in the response, noted the snow was deep — making for an unpredictable situation. But the death-toll would not necessarily be a future deterrent, he said.
"I believe some people will be changed and other people will continue on," he said. "Have fun. Be safe." A warning sign posted at the parking lot declared the hazard level was "considerable," falling mid-way on the risk scale. And a spokesman for Avalanche Canada said an assessment of the slide determined it was human-triggered. On the outskirts of town, a bed-and-breakfast owner said the community was not surprised by occasional fatalities. "That sort of stuff comes with the territory. It happens," said the owner, who declined to be named. "It's like, you go out on the highway right now and you get hit by a semi-truck. It's very sad, but it's just reality." — Follow @TamsynBurgmann on Twitter
"When you go in big groups, I think there's a mentality of one-upping each other."
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