Two-thirds of snowmobilers killed in B.C. avalanches over the past five years were from Alberta, the majority from the Edmonton area, Avalanche Canada said.
Of the 24 sledders, 15 were from Alberta, including 11 from Edmonton and the surrounding area. The remaining nine were from B.C.
Avalanche Canada said March is the deadliest month for avalanche deaths. This year, the group is focusing its awareness efforts on Alberta snowmobilers.
“Unlike other user groups, snowmobiling avalanche fatalities are showing a clear pattern,” said Gilles Valade, executive director of Avalanche Canada, in a news release.
“When we see such a cluster in terms of place of residence, it raises a concern that our safety messages aren’t reaching the people who clearly need it most.”
All 45 people killed in B.C. avalanches in the past five years were men. Last year alone, 15 men (12 of whom were snowmobiling) died.
The Valemount area is a popular spot for Alberta riders.
“Far too often we see terrain choices that simply do not fit the conditions,” said Curtis Pawliuk, the general manager of the Valemount and Area Recreation District. “These people are getting lucky.
“While the snowmobile community has come a long way, we need to start seeing greater buy-in and respect for the hazards of the backcountry.”
Valade said an Avalanche Skills Training course is the first step for anyone heading out to the backcountry.
“More than 8,000 people take this training each season. Unfortunately, less than 15 per cent of these students are snowmobilers. Convincing more sledders to take this training where they will learn safe travel techniques for avalanche terrain and how to self-rescue is a significant goal for Avalanche Canada.”
READ MORE: What causes avalanches?
The group says everyone in a backcountry group needs to have an avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel. For current avalanche conditions or to learn about training, visit www.avalanche.ca.