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Injured skier rescued on Kootenay Pass

Nelson Search and Rescue responded to their third call-out on the Kootenay Pass this ski season Friday. - Nelson Star file photo
Nelson Search and Rescue responded to their third call-out on the Kootenay Pass this ski season Friday.
— image credit: Nelson Star file photo

A backcountry skier was rescued Saturday morning off the Kootenay Pass after spending about 20 hours with a painful injury.

Nelson Search and Rescue spokesman Chris Armstrong said they were paged between 4:30 and 5 p.m. Friday for a medical rescue following an accident “a good ways” in the backcountry. It did not involve an avalanche.

A dozen searchers responded, ten of whom skied in and reached the man by 9 p.m. — due to the time of the call, they weren’t able to fly in by helicopter.

Armstrong said the location was “quite severe” and they were prevented from getting the man out by darkness, snow, and steep terrain.

They called for more help and teams from South Columbia and Rossland search and rescue responded. However, due to the conditions they decided to stay the night.

Late Saturday morning, members of Kimberley and Castlegar search and rescue also responded, as well as Revelstoke, who brought in their long line rescue team to fly the man out to an ambulance.

He had a severe compound tibia fracture just above his ski boot, Armstrong said. “The poor guy spent 20 hours out there …  A very painful thing to be put through.”

He thought the man was in his 20s but did not know where he was from, nor how many others were in his party.

It's the fourth incident local search and rescue has responded to on the pass this ski season. Armstrong said the accessibility of the area makes it one of their highest sources of call-outs. Ironically, he added, the more media coverage these sorts of rescues receive, the more people seek out that area.

“It’s the easiest point of access outside of a ski hill. You can get off the highway, walk for a few minutes and be in fantastic terrain,” he said. “But when you're doing any form of rescue, the quicker the response the better. The distance to travel to the pass and then get into the backcountry adds up quickly.”

Armstrong said in this case, he understands the accident happened around noon but there was a significant delay before they received the call. Had it come sooner and more directly, “we would have been in there with a helicopter and plucked him out. He would have been in a hospital bed within a few hours.”

In all, about 30 people responded to the call, with 17 on the first day, including the Nelson contingent. “It's a huge effort for a Friday night. It's a lot of people coming from a long way to help an individual,” Armstrong said.

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