Search teams respond to help rescue 9 skiers in southwest B.C.

Rescues near Whistler and Cypress Mountain complicated by dangerous avalanche conditions

Search and rescue crews had a busy weekend in southwest British Columbia on Sunday, as they responded to reports of a total of nine skiers lost amid dangerous avalanche conditions.

Eight of those skiers were part of three different groups that became trapped in the late afternoon in avalanche terrain in the Whistler area, according to the Whistler Search and Rescue Society.

"It appears that skiers had crossed a well demarcated ski area boundary ropeline and headed into a local's favourite backcountry area known as the Cakehole in Garibaldi Provincial Park," the society's Brad Sills told CBC News in an email.

All of the skiers have since been located and brought back safely.

A helicopter was deemed necessary to rescue the skiers as crews could not get into the area on foot due to the high avalanche risk, Sills said. However, the helicopter could not leave Vancouver International Airport due to storm conditions in the area, he added.

RELATED: Why avalanche risks heighten in March

"As the night wore on and the subjects — who were in very steep, unstable terrain — realized that exiting out the bottom presented more danger than retreating back, [they] were faced with a very difficult choice," Sills said.

Content continues below

Three skiers made it out at a lower elevation early in the evening, but a group of four and a single person were still stuck in the area.

Rescue crews got the remaining skiers to download a navigation app to help them get out of the area. They were greeted by a rescue party in a snowcat just after 11 p.m. PT.

Missing on Cypress Mountain

Closer to Vancouver, North Shore Search and Rescue manager Dave Barnett said a skier that was reported missing on Cypress Mountain on Sunday evening had been located.

Barnett said the skier was found below the Howe Sound Crest Trail, an area with difficult terrain where the avalanche risk was high.

DON'T MISS: In the N.W.T., an approaching wildfire season is fuelling anxiety

"Our team had to travel very carefully to avoid getting in a situation where there might be an avalanche," Barnett said.

Crew member Mike Danks said they were able to evacuate the skier, a man in his mid-30s, around midnight. Danks said he was hypothermic, dehydrated and wet, and had no avalanche safety equipment and a dead cellphone.

Content continues below
CBC: Avalanche risk across B.C. as of early Monday. (Avalanche Canada)

Avalanche risk across B.C. as of early Monday. (Avalanche Canada)

Avalanche warning

Avalanche Canada issued a special public avalanche warning last week, lasting until Monday.

It said snow had fallen on most of B.C.'s mountains on top of a weak layer established during drought conditions last month. While the risk of storm-related avalanche was expected to decrease, Avalanche Canada said human-triggered avalanches would remain likely.

"It's vital to not underestimate the instability of these weak layers," avalanche forecaster Tyson Rettie told CBC last week.

"Any avalanche triggered on them could be deadly."

Thumbnail image courtesy of North Shore Rescue via CBC News.

This article, written by Courtney Dickson, was originally published for CBC News.

WATCH: The best piece of safety equipment in the event of an avalanche is with you at all times