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Avalanche toll increases
Sunday January 4, 2009 - Email this article to a friend

North America is counting the cost of a series of avalanche deaths. Some of them were within the marked runs.

In the US 9 people have died this winter – 3 of them while skiing in-bounds at resorts in areas that had been bombed or declared safe.

In the last 3 years a total of 4 people have died in bounds in US ski resorts so the sharp increase is worrying authorities and investigations are under way.

31-year-old David Nodine, of Wilson, died last Saturday at Jackson Hole within the marked area.

Avalanches have killed others within the ski area at the resorts of Snowbird and Squaw Valley. Read details of the Snowbird accident here.

Warning signs in Whistler this weekWarning signs in Whistler this weekPeople have been caught but fortunately survived at Jackson Hole, Mammoth, Vail, Telluride and Arapahoe Basin.

U.S. Forest Service officials say they will re-examine local and nationwide avalanche control procedures following the accidents and deaths to see if changes to the rules and regulations are needed.

In Jackson Hole last week an avalanche hit a restaurant, partially damaging it.

In the worst incident in North America 8 snowmobilers died in Fernie Canada while in the back country.  3 managed to dig themselves out but the rest died.

They were in 2 separate groups and were hit by a series of avalanches after recent heavy snowfalls.

One group of 7 was hit by an avalanche and then 4 others came to help when a second avalanche hit the whole group.

All the bodies have now been recovered and the funeal service took place on Monday. 4,000 people attnded and there were messages of condolences from the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, and Governor General, Michalle Jean.

Spanky's ladder, WhistlerSpanky's ladder, WhstlerIn Whistler 2 people died last week and the resort has closed more runs. It;s reported the accidents happened in Harmony Bowl and off Spanky's Ladder.

"The base has risen to over 150cm but the snow is soft at the moment with avalanche warnings posted all over the place" reports PlanetSKI's Alex Griffiths from Whistler. "With the bowls and many runs still closed as well the risk of accidents is high."

However skiers and snowboarders are still ignoring the signs and skiing in areas not deemed tobe safe.  the resorts has warned people that if they ignore the restrictions they face penalties that could include the cancellation of passes.

Three skiers and a snowboarder face a lifetime ban after ducking under a boundary rope at Grouse Mountain, near Vancouver.

The 4 even refused to return to the marked run when instructed to do so and now face a ban from all ski resorts in British Columbia.

The Canadian Avalanche Center has issued a strong warning of "unstable and unusual" conditions in much of British Columbia.

Resorts like Whistler have had a very poor start to the winter as we have already reported and so the temptation has been for people to head straight to the powder.

"Don't let the fresh snow and brief periods of sunshine lure you into typical big slopes and steep chutes," warns the authorities. "It's important to be patient and make conservative terrain choices for the time being."

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