Skier rescued from Mount Seymour triggered avalanche
A skier is recovering in hospital after being swept up in a backcountry avalanche that he triggered.
The slide occurred shortly after noon Tuesday in an area of Mount Seymour Provincial Park near the Seymour Alpine Trail, North Shore Rescue said.
Gareth Fafard had come off the 1st Pump Peak on the southeast side, hit the snow and triggered the size 1.5 avalanche.
He was pushed several metres down the slope into a wooded area. He hit a tree and broke his left femur during the avalanche.
"There was no external bleeding but he's probably got bleeding internally. It's definitely a serious injury," NSR's Peter Haigh told CTV News.
Fafard was out by himself, but fortunately his fall was witnessed by a nearby snowshoer. The bystander rushed to the skier's aid and called for help.
"The ski patrol actually went out and in fact got there first," Haig said, though Fafard was in the backcountry of the provincial park and not at the ski resort.
The skier wasn't out of bounds, but was in an area not covered by ski patrol.
Initially, rescuers hoped to airlift Fafard to safety, but dense fog blanketed the area and the rescue helicopter was forced to land and shut down. Snowmobiles were then used to take rescuers most of the way, and they snowshoed the final couple of kilometres to get to his side.
They also had a guard higher up on the hill watching for signs of another avalanche, and they had an expert checking conditions before letting rescuers head up.
"It was very steep terrain we were in… We had to protect our guys and the subject and that took resources," Haig said.
"Just getting the people in was a difficult job."
The injured skier was then loaded on to a stretcher and brought to safety nearly eight hours after the avalanche.
Among the volunteers were a new North Shore Rescue medical team.
"It took about 25 to 30 people to actually evacuate the patient over land, but having the physicians there really provided optimal patient care while the transport was happening," said team leader Mike Danks.
Fafard remained in hospital Wednesday morning, where he was scheduled for surgery and a scan.
The skier is a paramedic, and previously worked as a ski patroller at Mount Seymour, assisting in rescues on the very mountain where he was injured.
"He's incredibly fit and level-headed… If you wanted to have somebody on the rescue team, Gareth would be the guy to have," Fafard's father told CTV.
"And if you wanted to have somebody who would make it easy to rescue them, he would be that guy too. Very calm and relaxed, professional."
Members of NSR said he was prepared, even though slide conditions at the time were considerable.
"It's not always the person's fault if they're out there and this happens," Danks said.
And search mananger Haig said the incident serves as a warning that those heading into backcountry need to be careful.
Not only did Avalanche Canada rate the risk of slides as high on Tuesday, but the site said the risk of human-triggered avalanches in particular were likely on B.C.'s South Coast.
"If he'd gone under it, game over. It's pretty serious out there," Haig said.
Following the incident, the B.C. government issued a reminder for those heading up in the mountains not to travel alone in backcountry or venture off marked trails.
On Wednesday, the risk remained high, especially in wind-loaded terrain above the treeline. Those heading uphill were advised to choose conservative lines and watch for signs of instability.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Scott Roberts, Jordana Springgay and Ben Miljure