An Australian snowboarder killed in an avalanche at a popular Canadian ski resort was riding in a restricted area with a friend when tragedy struck, authorities say.
Horror new details have emerged about the death of the 42-year-old woman from New South Wales, whose identity has not yet been released.
Whistler Blackcomb has confirmed the woman and her 36-year-old male riding companion triggered a category 1 avalanche on a section of the mountain that is permanently closed and off-limits to guests.
The Royal Canadian Mountain Police told Sunrise that the woman had unclipped her board and was walking through the closed area when she fell off a 200m cliff, triggering the avalanche.
Avalanche Canada describes a category 1 slide as “relatively harmless” with a typical path
length of about 10 metres.
According to Global News, the couple survived the avalanche and were able to call for help but the woman later died in hospital.
It is unclear whether the woman died from injuries sustained in the fall or the avalanche that followed.
Her male friend, whose nationality has not been confirmed, was later rescued from the area and is believed to be in a stable condition.
In a statement, the resort said its ski patrol unit responded to a “snowboarder incident” in the closed terrain over Lakeside Bowl on Thursday local time which triggered the avalanche.
The woman was taken to Whistler Health Care Centre just before 2.30pm (local time) but later died from her injuries.
“Whistler Blackcomb, Whistler Blackcomb Ski Patrol and the entire Vail Resorts family extend our deepest sympathy and support to our guest’s family and friends,” Whistler Blackcomb chief operating officer Pete Sonntag said.
via @GlobalBC @CTVVancouver @CBCVancouver “Australian #Snowboarder dies after entering restricted area (#Whistler); avalanche risk critical”. Hard to fathom why #Northshore Search+Rescue & SkiPatrols refuse to *Prohibit* Skiiers etc from going o/of Bounds!?!
— Joan Rollins (@joan_rollins) February 23, 2019
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said consular assistance was being provided to the victim’s family of the woman but provided no further information “owing to our privacy obligations”.
“Consular assistance may include support and guidance to families and liaison with local and Australian authorities to assist with funeral arrangements or repatriation of remains,” a spokesperson said.
“Australian Embassies have no authority to intervene in local judicial matters, conduct local investigations, or pay for funeral or repatriation costs.”
The woman’s death is now the subject of an investigation by the British Columbia Coroners Service.
It was the second avalanche-related fatality in the region in just one week.
On Monday, a snowshoer died after he and his friend were caught in a slide on Mt Seymour. His companion survived by tying himself to a tree for several hours until rescuers arrived.
Crews recovered the body of the second man two days later.
A special avalanche warning is in place for much of the South Coast and central Vancouver Island, with strong winds last week contributing to unstable conditions.
The NSW snowboarder is not the first Australian to have died at Whistler, a resort town so popular with antipodeans that it is known as “Whistralia”.
In March last year, authorities recovered the body of Perth woman Alison Raspa from a semi-frozen lake south of Whistler Village four months after she vanished in bizarre circumstances.
In 2015, the body of Australian teenager Jake Kermond was found dumped in an industrial complex near the town. The 19-year-old Victorian’s case remains unsolved and the subject of a homicide investigation.
Detectives have theorised Mr Kermond may have been pushed off a cliff.
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