VANCOUVER — Rescue officials in British Columbia say skiers rescued from an avalanche in Cypress Provincial Park could have died had they not been carrying proper gear.
North Shore Rescue spokesman Mike Banks said the men were in the backcountry on the north side of Hollyburn Mountain when one of the skiers triggered an avalanche.
"It's certainly something you don't see every day, especially on the North Shore," Banks said.
The skier was swept down approximately 120 metres over a cliff and was buried in the Tony Baker Gully.
Banks said the second skier found his partner using a beacon and probe, and then dug through nearly two metres of snow to reach his face so he could breathe.
A group of other skiers in the area spotted the man digging and helped dig out the rest of the victim's body and covered him in jackets to keep warm.
Someone within the group then called for help.
North Shore Rescue sent crews to locate the pair and provide medical care at the scene until they could be airlifted out.
"I can't emphasize enough how lucky this individual was," Banks said.
The skier had multiple injuries from the slide, prompting rescue crews decided to fly him closer to hospital rather than waiting to transfer him to an ambulance.
North Shore Rescue says the man is now in hospital in serious condition.
They say he would have died had the pair not been trained to respond to an avalanche and carry the necessary equipment.
The second victim was seen walking around after the rescue.
Banks said anyone going skiing the rest of the weekend should avoid the backcountry, and if they do head out in those areas, to carry appropriate equipment and be cautious in their decision-making.
Avalanche Canada had issued warnings for the alpine and treeline areas of South Coast mountains, including Cypress, this weekend.
The organization said naturally-occurring avalanches were possible, while human-triggered events were likely.
The organization also reported an avalanche on the backside of the mountain on Friday, saying the snow conditions were heavy and wind-affected.