Out-of-bounds snowboarder rescued after triggering avalanche on the North Shore
VANCOUVER -- A snowboarder who went out of bounds at Cypress Mountain Ski Resort Tuesday afternoon is lucky to be alive after triggering a small avalanche.
It happened just after 3:30 p.m. when the man left the ski area after taking a lift close to the top of Mount Strachan.
While being swept up in the avalanche, the man hit his head on a tree and suffered injuries to his face, chest and lower body.
“He really is more fortunate than he realizes because if conditions were any worse we would not have gone in. We wouldn’t put our people into danger," said North Shore Rescue search manager Peter Haigh.
After the slide, the man was still in cell range and called a friend who was able to use an app to pinpoint his exact location.
“I called 911 and called Cypress. And then Cypress called North Shore Rescue,” said his friend Olivia Wang.
Nearly 30 volunteers participated in the rescue operation, with some circling above in a helicopter, while others skied or snowshoed into the area where the injured man was stuck.
At some point, the man was able to detach his snowboard and dig himself free from the snow burying his lower body.
Volunteers in the helicopter spotted him just before nightfall, allowing those on the ground to zero in on his location.
However, it still took until 7:30 p.m. to reach him, and then until 10 p.m. to get him out on a stretcher.
That was a delicate operation that initially involved people on foot pulling the victim, before they were able to hook the stretcher up to a snowmobile for the remainder of the trip back to the ski resort.
“He’s very lucky that the rescue group found him before it got too dark,” said Wang, who was waiting near the ambulance when volunteers brought her friend to paramedics.
The 32-year-old man was in considerable pain and could be heard moaning loudly as he was transferred into the ambulance.
According to North Shore Rescue, it was a tricky operation because there is considerable avalanche risk in the mountains on the South Coast right now.
“There’s a lot of loose snow on top of an ice base, so it’s a dangerous avalanche area and there has been avalanche activity,” said Haigh.
Paramedics took the victim to Lions Gate Hospital and the full extent of his injuries was not immediately known, but Haigh said the man was lucky to be alive.