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Avalanche near Whistler claims life of snowmobiler

A warning is posted on top of the Gem Lake chair, telling skiers and snowboarders to stay away from the area Wednesday Jan. 19, 2011 at the Big White ski resort near Kelowna B.C.

Jacques Boissinot/ The Canadian Press/Jacques Boissinot/ The Canadian Press

An avalanche has claimed another life in the mountains of British Columbia.

Whistler RCMP Staff Sergeant Steve LeClair said Tuesday night that the latest victim is an unidentified 44-year-old man from Squamish, about 64 kilometres north of Vancouver.

The slide took place Tuesday afternoon south of Whistler, in the Grizzly Lake area of Powder Mountain.

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"The companions of the buried male found him, managed to dig him out after about 20 minutes," said Sgt. LeClair. "He was unconscious, not breathing, no pulse."

Sgt. LeClair said the man was pronounced dead at the Whistler Health Care Centre.

The victim's family has been notified but police have not yet released the man's name.

So far this winter, four skiers and one snowmobiler have died in avalanches in B.C., while the yearly cross-Canada average is just under 15 fatalities.

The avalanche rating was considerable Tuesday because of a large amount of snow over the last few days, said Sgt. LeClair.

"When the slope loads up like that obviously the avalanche danger rises," he said.

Police were first notified of the incident just after 3:30 p.m. PT.

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Sgt. LeClair said five men, all from the Squamish and Metro Vancouver area, were snowmobiling when two of the men tried to climb a steep slope.

The resulting avalanche buried one of the men, initiating a response from search and rescue officials, ski patrol members and the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association.

Sgt. LeClair said a doctor and paramedic from Whistler were also flown to the area.

Until emergency officials arrived, the male's companions started and continued CPR on the victim who was then transported to Whistler.

Sgt. LeClair reminded people to exercise sound judgment when selecting back-country routes and ensure they are properly trained and equipped for companion rescue.

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