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Media Statement from Big White Ski Resort – Parachute Bowl Avalanche Incident

Shortly before 11:00 am on Sunday, January 6th, 2008, an avalanche occurred at Big White Ski Resort at an in-bounds area known as the Parachute Bowl, which is serviced by the Cliff double chairlift . . .

For Immediate Release January 8, 2008


Parachute Bowl and other slopes in the Cliff area have been open to the public since December 12th to promote skier compaction on fresh powder snow. During the ensuing period, on-going avalanche control measures were performed which included using hand-charges (small explosives), ski-cutting, as well as daily weather and slope observation.  Big White Ski Patrol checked the upper and lower routes and performed ski-cutting on the morning of January 6th, 2008. The entrance gates to various parts of the Cliff were opened at 9:00 am and the ropes were lowered to open Parachute Bowl at 9:48 Sunday morning.

“There is no avalanche safety team more qualified or passionate about their responsibilities than the Big White Ski Resort team," commented Resort President, Mr. Peter Schumann. "These dedicated young men and women, are lead by Jeremy Hopkinson, our Vice President of Outdoor Operations, and his Head of Ski Patrol, Kris Hawryluik. Together, these two gentlemen have over 49 years of experience at Big White, and their team of 7 avalanche safety certified and blasting personnel have, combined, an impressive 33 years of service.”

At 10:56 am, the snow pack released and an avalanche occurred in the Parachute Bowl. Ski Patrollers, specially-trained avalanche personnel, School Ski and Board personnel and members of the general public were on the scene almost immediately, and started a controlled probing search of the avalanche debris field. Two people, partially buried, were freed and one transported to the Ski Patrol hut.  This twelve year old guest was then released by medical personnel having sustained no physical injuries. RCMP with trained avalanche dogs arrived on the scene at approximately 12:05 pm.

Two guests were initially reported missing and turned up later elsewhere in the resort. At 3:15 pm, word of another missing guest, resort employee - Leigh Barnier, came in.  While the search continued until dark at the avalanche site, an extensive search of the resort’s facilities commenced and continued until 9:30 pm Sunday night. At first light on Monday morning, the RCMP returned to the debris zone accompanied by avalanche dogs. A helicopter equipped with a thermal imaging device was employed by Big White Ski Resort Ltd. to search the avalanche area and the outside perimeters. At approximately 2:00 pm, a snow cat was employed to push snow out of an area which the avalanche dogs continued to return to.  Mr. Barnier's body was discovered a short time later, approximately 12.5 ft. under the snow. The RCMP immediately contacted the coroner’s office and the recovery of the body was managed by them.

The entire Big White community, management and staff are sending out their condolences to the family of Mr. Barnier, a seasonal employee from Sydney, Australia. Mr. Barnier's family have recently arrived at the resort and have asked for privacy during this difficult time.

Big White Ski Resort Ltd. would like to thank the many resort guests, Search and Rescue teams, volunteers, Canadian Ski Patrol members, RCMP and dog team, and resort employees for their exceptional efforts in conducting a thorough search and recovery operation.

"Avalanches in areas that are controlled and monitored inside resort boundaries are extremely rare," says Michael J Ballingall, Senior Vice President for Big White Ski Resort, "weather conditions and snow pack this winter have been highly unusual and extra precautions have been taken to manage the extremely unpredictable circumstances."

 

For more information, contact: Michael J. Ballingall, Senior Vice President, Big White Ski Resort, (250) 470-7350, mballingall@bigwhite.com

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