5 skiers uninjured after getting caught in avalanche in Whistler backcountry

An avalanche on Mount Pattison in the backcountry near Whistler is seen on May 20, 2022. (Whistler Search and Rescue)

Whistler Search and Rescue is warning backcountry users of elevated avalanche risk this long weekend, after five skiers were fortunate to avoid injury in a significant slide Thursday night.

According to a summary the search and rescue team shared on Avalanche Canada's Mountain Information Network Friday, a group of five ski tourers were heading out to complete the Spearhead Traverse when they accidentally triggered the avalanche around 7 p.m. while ascending the west face of Mount Pattison.

"All five group members were caught in the avalanche and were partially buried," the summary reads. "Four were able to self-extricate and one needed to be excavated out (buried up to their neck) … Miraculously no injuries and only one ski pole lost."

Whistler search and rescue crews surveyed the incident Friday morning, posting several photos of the avalanche online.

The team described the avalanche as a "Size 2 slab avalanche," and said crews observed several other natural slides while flying to the avalanche site.

Avalanche sizes are typically measured on a five-point scale, with Size 2 on the smaller end, but still containing enough material to bury a person.

"Please use caution this weekend as avalanche hazard is expected to remain elevated and far from typical for this time of year," Whistler Search and Rescue warned.

Avalanche Canada's forecasting season has ended, meaning there's no official avalanche danger rating in the Whistler backcountry right now.

However, the agency's "spring conditions guide" warns that danger can vary from low to high throughout the day. 

"In general, reduce your exposure to avalanche terrain during periods of solar radiation, daytime warming, or rain," Avalanche Canada warns.