VANCOUVER - Search and rescue crews have located the body of a snowmobiler caught in an avalanche west of Kimberley, B.C., on Saturday.
The man — who will not be identified until his family is notified — was found mid-afternoon on Sunday, according to Kimberley's search and rescue team president Peter Reid.
He said the snowmobiler was discovered under 1.5 metres of snow at the leading edge of the avalanche's path, by crews who had been searching since dawn.
Reid received a call around 3 p.m. on Saturday, notifying him that a powerful avalanche had swept through the Hellroaring Creek area of the Purcell Mountains.
He immediately launched an emergency response, but was unable to initiate a ground search because avalanche technicians flown in by helicopter deemed the area too dangerous.
Reid said the emergency responders used explosives to blast the area and mitigate risks of another avalanche, but by then it was too late in the evening to send out crews on foot.
By first light on Sunday morning, more than 70 emergency responders, volunteers and two avalanche dogs had gathered from neighbouring communities of Golden, Cranbrook, Fernie, Sparwood, Elkford, Invermere and Creston.
Once the man's body was discovered, crews spent the next hour evacuating the body and turning it over to the provincial coroners service.
The snowmobiler was one of seven seasoned backcountry snowmobilers with appropriate survival gear, according to a spokesman for the Cranbrook Mounties.
The area is quickly becoming infamous for its avalanches, Reid said, including one that occurred last year, and another in 2009 that killed a local snowmobiler.
Last week, the Canadian Avalanche Centre issued a special warning to skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers, as sunny spring weather hit the province. It said warmer temperatures could weaken snow surface crusts and overhanging cornices, resulting in easy-to-trigger slides.
UPDATE - March 26, 2013: The BC Coroners Service has confirmed the victim as Joel Conway, 38, of Kimberley. He was one of a group of seven snowmobilers who had travelled to the area of Hellroaring Creek southwest of Kimberley on a memorial
run for another Kimberley resident who died in an avalanche in the same area four years earlier.
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