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Director of Oregon avalanche center dies in an avalanche

File photo courtesy: Wallowa Avalanche Center

File photo courtesy: Wallowa Avalanche Center

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Friday, March 11, 2016, 2:07 PM - Kip Rand, director of the Wallowa Avalanche Center in Oregon, died Wednesday after being swept away by an avalanche while backcountry skiing. He was 29.

Rand, who was an experienced skier, was caught at the top of an avalanche and pulled down a 182-metre slope.

Reports suggest he survived the fall but died before rescuers could reach him.

According to local officials, rescue teams received a signal from Rand's GPS beacon at 4:30 p.m., but it took five hours for help to arrive.

"We are simply stunned with sorrow," reads a statement on the Wallowa Avalanche Center's website.

"Kip's commitment to the avalanche center and avalanche safety was immediately evident as he settled into his new position as Director of our organization in November of last year. He came to us with extensive avalanche training, many years of experience as a guide, avalanche educator and pro observer. Most of all, he came to us with a humble, collected and thoughtful demeanor as he spoke and shared his knowledge ... We are humbled and appreciative of the support and encouragement received from the community and avalanche professionals around the nation."

Details on the accident are still unknown. Officials are investigating.

VIDEO: Avalanche awareness

Avalanches in Canada 

Avalanches aren't uncommon in Canada, especially in the west, where huge mountains and heavy snowpacks can lead to unpredictable slides.

According to the Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC), at least 766 people were killed by avalanches in Canada between 1997 and 2007.

"Since 1970, a total of 445 individuals have lost their lives in 295 different avalanche accidents in Canada," a report on the CAC says.

"During this time period, 92% of all fatal accidents and 90% of all avalanche fatalities involved recreationists. However, non-recreational avalanche accidents do still occur and are often associated with multiple casualties."

The CAC says people traveling to the backcountry should be equipped with:

  • An avalanche transceiver;
  • A probe; and
  • A shovel.

"Everyone should have some training in recognizing avalanche terrain and applying safe backcountry travel techniques," the CAC says.

Sources: CAC | Wallowa Avalanche Center

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