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Avalanche Kills 7 Skiers in Canada - 2003-01-21

An avalanche in the Canada's British Columbia Province has killed at least seven skiers. The incident happened in remote wilderness that has become famous for back country adventure. The avalanche occurred midday Monday on the Durrand Glacier, near the town, Revelstoke, about 700 kilometers east of Vancouver.

A group of 21 Canadian and American skiers chartered a helicopter from "The Selkirk Mountain Experience" in Revelstoke to fly into the company's remote chalet, near the glacier.

Survivors were taken to the local hospital. The bodies of those killed were moved to a temporary morgue, set up in the adventure company's helicopter hanger.

This type of remote back-country skiing is both a dangerous sport and a major tourist attraction in the mountainous area. Skiers routinely traverse different mountains and glaciers, at high altitudes, to ski on the fresh powder of unused snow.

According to the Canadian Avalanche Association in Revelstoke, 50 people are reported to have died in similar accidents in British Colombia, over the past five years.

Clair Israelson is the director of the association, which helps to monitor the likelihood of avalanches. He said that although slides in the region's mountains happen everyday, the one that caused Monday's deaths is very uncommon.

"Avalanches in the interior mountains of British Columbia, avalanches of some sort, are a daily event. Avalanches that catch and kill this many people are certainly infrequent. We haven't had an accident of this magnitude for many years now," Ms. Israelson said.

Mr. Israelson said conditions on the glacier were rated as "considerable" at the time of the accident, which is in the middle of the Association's danger scale.

Groups normally receive the usual wilderness survival training and sign paperwork recognizing the potential for danger before going up into the mountains. Avalanche beacons, which allow buried skiers to be easily found, are customary gear for such expeditions.