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Out of bounds skiers rescued on Christmas Eve

Kamloops Search and Rescue members attended a rescue of three 14-year-old boys at Sun Peaks on Dec. 23. The boys had skied out of bounds and it took 14 hours to get them back to safety.
Image Credit: Mike Ritcey
December 26, 2013 - 11:58 AM

KAMLOOPS – Fun at Sun Peaks soon became trouble for three 14-year-old skiers who decided to take their adventure out of bounds Dec. 23. Using the spotty cell phone reception they were getting between the two phones they had with them, they called their parents for help.

The 14-year-olds, all from Kamloops, were skiing at the resort for the day when they decided to duck the ropes . They had two cell phones with them and were well dressed for cold weather, but none had avalanche survival gear and avalanche territory is where they ended up.

Kamloops Search and Rescue Search Manager Alan Hobler says the boys skied through two bowls and ended up on avalanche slopes at the bottom of an avalanche trail. He adds the avalanche rating was very high for the region, making the whole rescue even more dangerous for both his team and the boys.

Hobler notes it was tough to get team members to the hill, as many were out of town for family gatherings, but by 4:30 p.m. the first team was on the ski hill and heading towards the boys. RCMP was able to help pinpoint their location within 100 feet by pinging the cell phones used to make the rescue call.

Because of the high avalanche risk members had to come up with a very detailed avalanche risk assessment and rescue plan that would keep everyone safe, which meant going into the bowl from the opposite side of where the boys entered and staying in a treed area to the side as much as possible.

A total of 10 search and rescue members, two B.C. Parks staff and three staff members from the ski hill all took part in the rescue, which concluded at 4:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve after the team hiked back up 1,000 feet on snowshoes with the boys, who were 'mildly hypothermic' when found.

“They weren't hypothermic by the time they were finished hiking out,” Hobler says, noting the hard work of hiking helped warm them all up.

Hobler says it could have taken a lot longer to find them had they not actually stayed put after making the rescue call. Staying put, being dressed for the weather and calling for help as soon as they realized they were in trouble were are all things he says the boys did right. Not staying in bounds was the big thing they did wrong.

“Stay within the ski area boundaries,” Hobler says. “It might look tempting but sometimes it's hard to get back in.”

He says the boys thought they would be able to ski out and at the very least come out near Whitecroft, which was still quite far from where they were. They had only gone about one kilometre from the ski hill. Hobler notes it's very easy to get disoriented when skiing out of bounds or in the back country, which leads to the need for search and rescue to come in.

This was the first call to the ski hill for local search and rescue teams this winter. Typically there are two or three calls out for out of bounds skiers at Sun Peaks every winter. Other B.C. search and rescue groups often face 10-12 calls out for out of bounds skiers every winter.

To contact a reporter for this story, email jstahn@infotelnews.ca, call (250)819-3723 or tweet @JennStahn.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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