ROSSLAND, B.C. – A group of 10 skiers from Washington state who inadvertently ventured into British Columbia’s backcountry kept themselves warm by starting a fire and huddling together until help arrived, the RCMP said.
The skiers were at Red Mountain Resort, near Rossland in southeastern B.C., on Sunday when they set off to explore a new area of Grey Mountain, said Cpl. Dave Johnson. They were reported missing by family members when they did not return as expected.
Johnson said the skiers, who ranged in age, did not intend to ski the backcountry and, consequently, weren’t prepared for a night on a cold mountain.
Nonetheless, he said the skiers made smart decisions that kept them safe until they were located, unharmed, by a search-and-rescue team early Monday morning, said Johnson.
“It was a navigational error, not intending to ski the backcountry,” Johnson said in an interview.
“They made some right decisions: staying together, starting a fire and waiting for search-and-rescue to come find them. They were prepared in that sense, but they were in-bound skiers.”
Johnson said a helicopter headed to the scene at first light on Monday and by mid-morning had already completed its first trip ferrying the skiers to safety. He said it would take several more trips throughout the day to retrieve all of the skiers and rescuers.
At least one person in the group is familiar with the area and has a residence at the resort. That person was described by police as an advanced skier.
Red Mountain Resort, located a short drive from the U.S. border, is a 1,700-hectare site that is spread over three mountains, including Grey Mountain.
The resort has 110 marked runs but also promises easy access to backcountry areas, according to the Red Mountain website.