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Cell Phone, Search & Rescue Save Stranded Skier

BC skier is lucky to be alive after being swept away by an avalanche

A man from Nelson, British Columbia, is counting his lucky stars after getting caught in an avalanche at the Castle Mountain Resort southwest of Pincher Creek. The man was skiing outside of the resort’s boundaries when he was swept away by the avalanche.

By some miracle, the man got cell reception and called 911. According to Pincher Creek RCMP Cpl. Marty Reed, if the man were another 200 feet lower, a nearby mountain would have blocked cell reception.

“We were made aware that a guest was in distress. They had managed to call 911, so they were very, very fortunate to have cell phone service because that’s not common here in the Castle Provincial Park and at our resort,” said CMR sales and marketing manager Cole Fawcett

Once they made a rescue response plan, Amanda Goodhue and her colleague Madeline Martin set off. Both women are part of the Southwest Alberta Regional Search and Rescue (SARSAR) crew.

The pair hiked up the mountain’s dangerous terrain for hours before arriving at the man’s location. When Goodhue and Martin arrived, the man was in stable condition but too injured to transport back down the mountain.

The SARSAR rescuers believe the man must have fallen 820 feet down the mountain during the avalanche. The man injured his back, legs, and neck during the tumble. He also sustained injuries related to the cold.

a helicopter airlifting a search and rescue member to safety with a bright blue sky and clouds in the background
A helicopter airlifting a search and rescue member to safety at Castle Mountain, AB | Jason Crawford | Castlegar News

To make matters worse, it was about 8 PM when they reached the man. According to a SARSAR spokesperson, alpine helicopter rescue operations are a risk in the dark.

That was a risk Goodhue and Martin weren’t going to take. Instead, the pair called for backup and built a makeshift shelter to prevent the man from turning into a human popsicle.

“We initially dug ourselves a shelter and built a tarp shelter for our patient. We prioritized that and just got him sort of comfortable,” said Goodhue.

Backup arrived at 1 AM with supplies and warm clothing to help the group make it through the bitter cold night. After braving the night, a helicopter arrived around 9 AM and airlifted the man off the mountain.

So, next time you go skiing, stay within bounds! Rescue operations require people, equipment, and even dogs. Because of this, rescue operations can cost organizations like SARSAR thousands of dollars.

At the end of the day, ski resorts like Castle Mountain Resort aren’t trying to stop you from having fun by putting up boundaries. These boundaries are there to keep you safe.

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