Being prepared for avalanche no replacement for avoiding one: Avalanche Canada

VANCOUVER — Avalanche Canada and the BC Coroners Service have joined forced in hopes of saving lives in British Columbia's backcountry.

The two organizations have issued a special advisory urging backcountry users to know the conditions, take extreme caution and recognize escalating risks.

The advisory follows a human-triggered avalanche last week in east-central B.C., near McBride, that killed five snowmobilers and engulfed several others who survived.

Both Avalanche Canada and the coroners' service note most of the 17 snowmobilers at the Mount Renshaw site had proper rescue equipment and knew how to use it, preventing further loss of life.

But the service says equipment alone is not enough, pointing to airbags that should have "floated" three of the Renshaw victims to the top of the slide, but could not save them because they were in a gully where snow flow was constricted.

Avalanche Canada executive director Gilles Valade says recognizing avalanche terrain and not exposing groups to the risk of a slide is even better than knowing how to respond after the snow has come down.

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