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WATCH: Man narrowly escapes avalanche in Whistler

The man says he was snowboarding inbounds when he was swept away in the avalanche.

Whistler resident Bryce Bugera headed out to go snowboarding with a group of friends on Saturday like he's done many times before. 

They went up Glacier Express Chair on Blackcomb Mountain with their sights set on a double black diamond run. Once they got up to the top they saw a lineup and decided to traverse along the ridgeline instead, staying inbounds on the mountain. 

“There were probably about 20 or so people that were ahead of me that had gone in that zone already,” he tells Glacier Media. “I kept catching up to them on the traverse.” 

Giving the group of five some room, Bugera stopped just above Brownlie Basin and waited until the area was clear. Little did he know he was standing right in harm's way. 

“On my part, it was a very bad place to stop,” he says. 

Moments later at 11:30 a.m., Bugera got swept into an avalanche. 

“It just went right underneath me,” he says. “It took and swept me off my feet and I started sliding down the hill.” 

Bugera was caught in the avalanche for about 20 feet before he was able to get on his feet.

“I couldn’t see how big it was because I was pretty far in the front of it,” he recalls. “I didn’t have time to look back.”

At first, he thought some of the traverse gave way but he quickly realized he was being pushed rapidly toward a rocky area. 

“That’s when I started to freak out a little bit and was scrambling to my feet to try and get out of that area,” says Bugera. 

He managed to get out of the way and safely off to the side. 

“I didn’t realize how big it was,” he says. “It felt like a conveyor belt, but it’s really hard to get to your feet because it’s constantly trying to knock you off balance.” 

Dane Gergovich, senior manager of communications at Whistler Blackcomb, says the incident is under investigation. 

"Whistler Blackcomb places the highest value on the safety of our guests and employees,” says Gergovich. 

He notes ski patrol regularly performs avalanche mitigation work, monitors snow conditions and weather forecasts, and evaluates terrain to the extent possible as conditions change.  

"The safety of guests and staff is our top priority. As the snow continues to fall and terrain expands, please obey all signage, respect others, and ski and ride with care,” says Gergovich. 

Since the avalanche, Bugera is thankful that the group in front of him was not injured or caught in the slide. He plans to get a beacon, and eventually, complete an avalanche skills training course.

“It’s easy to get complacent and not think about it when you’re inbounds, but you’re still dealing with those risks,” he says. “[You] forget how dangerous this sport can actually be sometimes.” 

He believes the risk is part of the sport and credits the work Whistler Blackcomb staff do to get the runs open. 

"It felt like a bit of a freak accident being inbounds,” he says. "I know that the avalanche crews are up there, they're doing really good work to get everything open.”

Gergovich is reminding people that if they're caught in an incident or collision, to notify a ski area employee through the My Epic app or at 604-935-5555.

Backcountry avalanche risk in south coast of B.C. 

Southern British Columbia is bracing for a wintry blast as a series of snowfall warnings are in place with up to 20 centimetres falling.

Environment Canada is calling for a frontal system to bring the Interior its first taste of winter of 2024 and 50 centimetres of snow for the Coquihalla Highway and Highway 3. 

Avalanche Canada forecaster Lynnea Baker says the coast needs to be prepared for another round of storms on Monday night. 

"This next one that's hitting tonight looks a bit juicier than the last one, so we are expecting quite a bit of precipitation out of it, as well as extreme wind values,” says Baker. 

More snow also raises the avalanche hazard in the backcountry. Avalanche Canada forecasts are for the backcountry only.

Avalanche Canada's Tuesday forecast for the Sea to Sky region is "high" hazard.

Over the weekend, Avalanche Canada observed size three president slab avalanches in the Whistler backcountry area and to the north of it. Large natural avalanches were also seen in Pemberton, which was anticipated by forecasters.

“We know the hazard is going to be elevated at that time, it’s really for how long will it stay elevated,” says Baker. 

Anyone looking to head out into the backcountry should check Avalanche Canada’s bulletin and make sure they have the proper gear and education.

“Limit your hazard wherever possible,” she says. “Save those bigger objectives for later on, once we see this storm snow start to settle."

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