Skier dead after fall in southwestern Alberta backcountry
Pincher Creek RCMP say a skier has died after he fell down a rocky slope on Mount Haig after he was struck in the head by a loose rock.
Officials say they were called to the scene at about 2 p.m. on Saturday after the skier was injured in a backcountry area near the Castle Mountain Ski Resort.
"They had climbed up a bit of the snow slope near the cliff area and as the subject was putting on his skis, a large rock came loose from above him and struck him," said Cpl. Jeff Feist with Pincher Creek RCMP.
He says the victim ended up falling down the snow slope and into the rocky section below.
Two skiers who were with the 22-year-old male victim attempted first aid and were soon joined by a group of hikers who were in the area of Haig Lake at the time.
By the time RCMP, along with members of the Pincher Creek Emergency Services and Alberta Parks conservation officers, arrived at the scene, the young man was pronounced dead.
Alpine Helicopters from Canmore, with the assistance of rescue technicians from Alberta Parks and Waterton Lakes National Park, helped to transport the victim's body from the scene.
Castle Mountain Ski Resort staff and STARS also assisted in the incident.
The victim has not been identified but RCMP say his family was present at the scene.
Feist says at this time of year, the cliff areas can be particularly dangerous, especially when it comes to potential rockslides.
"With all the moisture that we've had, there's a fair bit of that rock comes loose and falls down. At the base of that cliff area, there is a large, 400 to 500 metre, very steep scree slope covered in loose rocks," he says. "They were just above that when this occurred."
Feist says the victim fell about halfway down to the lake area.
District officer Dave Hagedorn with Alberta Parks says the area was very busy on Saturday.
"We have seen an increase in traffic, both pedestrian and vehicle traffic," he says. "It's important that if you are planning a backcountry excursion to be prepared for the trip. Know what the terrain is that you're walking into, know what the weather is like [and] know what the wildlife status is."
He adds people need to understand all the risks they may run into when going into the backcountry or even the frontcountry.
"Go to your closest outdoor retailer and speak to an expert. Talk to them and get the proper equipment and get some expert advice."
Feist says anyone who goes into the backcountry this time of year needs to be vigilant.
"It's just to be aware of your surroundings and be aware of what’s occurring around you and try to put yourself in the safest place as possible. Sometimes these backcountry adventures have a risk to them, in this incident, unfortunately it struck him."
An autopsy on the victim is expected to take place on Monday.