A cornice like this is an overhanging feature often seen on mountain ridges, formed by the buildup of snow from strong winds.

“You have about 15 minutes to live”

Most of BC's avalanche deaths occur in the Interior

“You have about 15 minutes to live.”

That is if you are buried by an avalanche, according to Princeton Ground Search and Rescue leader Randy Rorvik.

“Avalanche is a big consideration for our response,” said Rorvik, in an interview with The Spotlight following numerous road closures in the area due to heavy snow and avalanche warnings over last weekend.

Highways 3 and 5A, as well as Coalmont Road, were closed Friday and reopened at different times the following morning.

However Rorvik said danger still exists for outdoor enthusiasts who might be hiking, skiing or snowmobiling in the back country.

“Any cutback on a forest service road or a trail has the potential to slide, in my opinion,” he said.

Rorvik urged sportsmen and women to take proper precautions when outdoors, pack essential survival gear and to carry avalanche beacons that can be used by members of a party to locate a fellow traveller under the snow.

Along with specially constructed snow probes and shovels, they could be the difference between life and death.

“That’s pretty standard. Any snowmobiler should have them nowadays. There are lots of real stories of how they have saved lives.”

Rorvik said it is also possible to purchase air bags that are designed to help someone survive an avalanche.

RELATED: Avalanche danger climbs to high for Okanagan

The ground search and rescue squad keeps a close eye on avalanche conditions, he said, as there are strict protocols to follow if the crew is called out when they exist.

Avalanches kill an average of 10 people a year in this province, according to a 2015 BC Coroner’s report.

Almost 70 per cent of those fatalities occur in the Interior and most of the victims are either snowmobilers or skiers.

Ninety percent of people killed by avalanches are men, and the average age of those victims is 39.9 years.

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