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STARS transports injured backcountry skier to hospital after avalanche at Mount Hector

"One skier was transported via STARS air ambulance to Calgary. The current condition of the patient is not known."
A photo posted on Avalanche Canada's website of the avalanche from Friday (Jan. 10) at Mount Hector in Banff National Park. SUBMITTED PHOTO

LAKE LOUISE –  A skier was flown by helicopter in life-threatening condition to Calgary after she was caught in an avalanche in Banff National Park.

The 32-year-old woman was in the Mount Hector area north of Lake Louise when the slide occurred Friday (Jan. 10).

A spokesperson from Parks Canada said three backcountry skiers were on the mountain when the avalanche occurred and confirmed one person was airlifted to a Calgary hospital by STARS air ambulance.

"This afternoon, Friday Jan. 10, 2020, Parks Canada visitor safety specialists responded to an avalanche involving three skiers on Mount Hector on Highway 93 North," Lesley Matheson, a media spokesperson for Parks Canada wrote in an email.

"One skier was transported via STARS air ambulance to Calgary. The current condition of the patient is not known."

Alpine Helicopters Inc. confirmed in a Facebook post that its crew transported the patient from Mount Hector to the Banff warden office, where she was picked up by STARS and taken to Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary at approximately 5 p.m.

STARS spokesperson Mark Oddan confirmed the patient, who was buried in the avalanche, was in critical condition when she was transported. However, he could not confirm her condition after arriving at the hospital in Calgary. 

Oddan says their helicopter crew was told she was under the snow for approximately 45 minutes and that friends got her out.

A report on Avalanche Canada's website from Friday afternoon stated that there was a serious incident at Mount Hector. The post at 2 p.m. indicated the 2.5 sized avalanche was a "serious" incident.

"Serious accident today," reported Snow Safety on the site. "Party possibly remotely triggered the size 2.5 avalanche on Mount Hector. It may have started as a windslab release with possible involvement of the upper surface hoar/facet/stellar Dec. 31 persistent layer, which then stepped down to the weak basal deep persistent layer in places." 

The web portal allows backcountry users to report avalanche conditions and incidents throughout western Canada. The non-government organization also issued a special avalanche warning after a significant snowfall prior to Christmas in the Rocky Mountains of B.C. and Alberta.

"Visitor safety is a top priority for Parks Canada and we work closely with other organizations to ensure that backcountry users receive the most up-to-date information on avalanche conditions so that they can make informed decisions," wrote Matheson.

"Parks Canada encourages visitors to consult the avalanche forecast diligently."

Go to Avalanche Canada's website to find current avalanche conditions in the Rocky Mountains.

With files from the Canadian Press

About the Author: Alana MacLeod

Alana MacLeod is a reporter for the Rocky Mountain Outlook. Previously, she worked for Global News Toronto as a news producer and writer. Follow her on Twitter: @Lans_macleod
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