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One dead in major avalanche near Creston

NELSON, B.C. - A man was killed and a woman taken to hospital following a dramatic rescue Sunday from a massive avalanche in southeastern British Columbia, in what was a deadly weekend in the backcountry.

Search manager Chris Armstrong said the pair was among a group of four skiers trekking through a high, remote section of Kootenay Pass between Salmo and Creston on Sunday afternoon when they were hit by a slide that swept them over a cliff.

Armstrong said Monday that the two remaining members of the group skied to a nearby highway to call for help, while six other skiers who were near the slide began rescue efforts.

A helicopter was brought in for the rescue but could not be used because of poor weather and the lack of daylight, he said.

"We ended up calling in four (search and rescue) teams from the area and had a total of 26 people do a seven-and-a half-hour evacuation of the female that was injured," Armstrong said.

"It was incredibly arduous and very physical to evacuate her from that terrain."

He said the "destructive" avalanche crowned at 100 centimetres — about hip-high.

"It carried the two individuals over a cliff face and down through some old-growth forest."

RCMP said all four skiers are from Nelson, B.C.

The 27-year-old woman was taken to hospital in Trail and the 27-year-old man's body remained at the scene. Searchers were to return to the mountain to continue efforts to recover the victim's remains.

"As the avalanche risk is very high in this area, police are advising to stay out of the back country," RCMP said in a statement.

In a separate incident in Pemberton, north of Whistler, a 29-year-old man also died Sunday while snowmobiling with friends.

RCMP Sgt. Peter Thiessen said the Burnaby resident was among a group that had snowmobiled to a forest service road area to ski and snowboard.

Thiessen said that at one point during the day, one of the men was waiting for his pal to show up and eventually went looking for him.

"He hiked back uphill in the deep snow and found his friend upside down in a tree well," Thiessen said.

The man was pulled out but was unresponsive, blue and not breathing, he said.

"The snowboarder and others began CPR. However, (they) were unable to revive their friend."

RCMP, firefighters and search and rescue personnel attended the scene but the man's body could not be transported out.

"As darkness was falling and the avalanche hazard was increasing, the decision was made to recover the male in the morning," Thiessen said.

He said Monday afternoon that efforts were still underway to recover the body as the coroner's service had arrived by snowmobile.

The Transportation Ministry plans to close Coquihalla Highway 5 between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Tuesday for avalanche control work to reduce the snowpack and clean up any deposits on the road.

The ministry says that three days of high winds and snow have continued to fill avalanche paths.

Last week, the Canadian Avalanche Centre issued a warning advising skiers, boarders and sledders to use extreme caution in the backcountry because as much as three metres of snow has fallen on top of a weak crust, creating the potential for massive slides.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. In a previous version, rescuers said the victim was 28 years old. He is 27.

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