February 4th, 2016

McBride Avalanche Deaths Preventable

The avalanche that caused the deaths of 5 men last weekend near McBride, BC was preventable, according to Karl Klassen, Avalanche Canada’s Public Avalanche Warning Service Manager, in a February 4 CBC news story.

Klassen made reference to the fact that there were as many as 15-17 riders on the slope at one time—which is a key ‘no-no’ taught in all beginner-level Avalanche Skills Training courses instructed with Avalanche Canada’s curriculum.

He also noted that although 3 of the 5 men who died had avalanche airbags and had deployed them, those men were located in a gully (also known as a terrain trap) and were quickly buried. And although avalanche airbags have succeeded in preventing many avalanche deaths in recent years, they work by keeping the victim in motion on the surface of a moving avalanche—but do not prevent a victim from being buried from above when not in motion in a terrain trap such as a gully.


Renshaw is BC's largest managed snowmobile area, and features varied riding terrain from simple to complex.

Renshaw is BC’s largest managed snowmobile area, and features varied riding terrain from simple to complex.


Looking beyond those tragic errors, Klassen did note that the majority of snowmobilers on-scene were properly prepared with avalanche rescue equipment and their actions that day did prevent further loss of life.


The CBC news story can be found here:






Let’s not judge the victims of this tragedy, but choose instead to learn from their fatal mistakes so that we, as a community of mountain riders, can grow in knowledge and wisdom to prevent this scale of tragic loss in the future. RIP Vincent Eugene Loewen, Tony Christopher Greenwood, Ricky Robinson, Todd William Chisholm and John Harold Garley. Our condolences to their family and friends.


– MS