Two dead on the mountain

By David F. Rooney

Two skiers were killed and a third injured after they skied out of bounds at Revelstoke Mountain Resort on Thursday.

Sgt. Art Kleinsmith of the Revelstoke RCMP detachment said the three were from Grimsby, Ont., and consisted of a father, his teen-aged son and the boy’s friend. The deceased were identified as Steve Babb, 47, of Grimsby, Ont., and Sam Vogl, 17, also of Grimsby. Babb’s son, Colin, age 16, survived with a serious ankle injury.

“The party of three skied into a steep, hard-packed, icy chute,” he said. “In an attempt to ascend the chute, the party removed their skis. The three fell during the ascent and slid approximately 100 metres and over a cliff.”

The father and his son’s friend were killed. The other teenager suffered a badly injured ankle.

The chute is apparently near Greely Bowl, where a skier fell through a cornice 10 days ago.

“It’s hard to understand what they were thinking,” Kleinsmith said.

The boundary is well marked and RMR goes out of its way to warn skiers to stay in-bounds yet skiers continue to ignore the dangers of backcountry skiing in unfamiliar terrain.

“It’s frustrating,” he said.

The resort issued a statement late Friday extending “its deepest condolences to the families involved with the recent tragic events that occurred on Thursday January 28, 2010 outside the RMR area boundary.”

Kleinsmith said in his statement autopsies have been ordered by the BC Coroners’ Service.

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Comments

2 Responses to “Two dead on the mountain”
  1. Leslie Savage says:

    Open Letter to RMR

    Today I had a great day on the mountain. I’m glad I didn’t learn until this evening that the reason the helicopter was landing at the top of the gondola at 9:40 am may have been that two people died last night when they went out of bounds. My ROC ski instructor must have known, but had the grace not to spoil my day by telling me.

    This evening, though, my thoughts turn to the wife and mother who lost her husband, and to the family who have lost a 16-year-old son, and I weep for them, as do I’m sure many others in Revelstoke. It’s so futile, so unnecessary. Useless to speculate why they were out of bounds—people do these things.

    What can be done about out-of-bounds skiers and boarders? Yes, there are some kids and adults who will engage with danger for the thrill of doing so. Maybe I’m naïve, but I find it difficult to imagine a man skiing with his son and son’s friend throwing caution entirely to the wind.

    CAn RMR do more to ensure the boundaries are very clearly marked? Out-of-bounds areas are marked in some places with orange tape on trees. Is this enough? Maybe not, given the speed of skiers and boarders, the possibility of “tree skiing” just off the major hills, and the extreme danger of going even somewhat out of bounds, as evidenced by this tragedy. It is such a huge hill, and the signage is minimal. There are so many runs, such long ones–I find is easy to imagine someone going out of bounds by accident.

    Apparently a lot of people do go out of bounds, usually deliberately, but it just doesn’t help to say oh well, they shouldn’t be there. The ski patrol can’t be everywhere on such a huge mountain but could signage be enhanced? Could off limits areas be roped instead of just marked with plastic tape flags?

    Can Mountain Awareness instruction be beefed up—even at the cost of possibly scaring some people away?Mountain awareness programs are only effective if people sign up for them. I don’t see much evidence of proactive encouragement for newcomers to the mountain to do that.

    We await the story from the boy who survived—what happened? Why were they on that cliff? No-one wants to dwell on tragedy, but in order to prevent such deaths from happening again and again, someone needs to be examining all aspects of this event.

    Particularly for visitors who are not accustomed to BC mountains, what can RMR and and we in Revelstoke do to make the point that these mountains are dangerous? Maybe we need a concerted effort to advertise the danger and the risks of skiing out of bounds. This is not Gatineau Park where you end up in Old Chelsea if you stray down the wrong side of Kingsmere Mountain. I don’t want to detract from the joy of skiing Mount MacKenzie—I enjoyed it myself all day today. But it sure takes some of the pleasure away to hear this sort of news. — L. Savage

  2. Catherine Bell says:

    Well said Leslie Savage…. You raise some very valid points that should be addressed – for everyone’s sake.