Updated Thu. Jan. 3 2008 2:36 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
RCMP in Whistler, B.C. say criminal charges could be laid against a 21-year-old snowboarder who survived an avalanche that killed a 29-year-old skier on New Year's Day.
Both men were swept over a cliff by a wall of snow in a permanently-closed area above the West Bowl on Whistler Mountain named "Hanging Roll."
The 29-year-old skier, identified by police as Curtis Green of Whistler, was killed and the snowboarder, also from Whistler, was badly injured. The identity of the 21-year-old man has not been released.
Police believe the men may have triggered the avalanche, which took place in a remote area away from the groomed hills of British Columbia's popular resorts.
RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair told CTV British Columbia that police are considering charges against the survivor.
"In an instant like this, we would potentially look at criminal negligence causing death," LeClair said.
"If other people had been injured by a slide that had come into the inbounds area of the hill, we would certainly look at criminal negligence causing injury."
LeClair said police are not trying to send a message by considering charges against the snowboarder.
"You can liken it a drunk driving accident. If someone is driving a car and they kill their friend, they still get charged," he told CTV Newsnet on Thursday.
Doug Forseth, Whistler Blackcomb's senior vice-president of operations, told CTV British Columbia that the fatal avalanche was preventable.
"We do find it very frustrating that there is needless tragedy like this," he said.
"The loss of life in this case was very unnecessary and I'm sure if somebody could go back and make that decision over, they would make a very different decision today."
In 2001, two skiers were swept over the exact same cliff in a similar incident, LeClair said.
"It was almost an identical situation to what happened here, except in that case, fortunately nobody died," he said.
Whistler officials had hoped previous accidents would have been a deterrent for people seeking thrills off the tourist route. Local snow-sport enthusiasts at the resort said the news of the skier's death was hard to take.
"You definitely feel a ripple effect throughout. Whether you know him or not, you just have that feeling," one snowboarder told CTV British Columbia.
The avalanche came just one day after the B.C. Coroner's Service issued a public safety advisory warning all backcountry skiers, snowmobilers and other outdoor enthusiasts travelling in mountain terrain to use extreme caution because of avalanche risk.
Heavy snow and constantly changing weather affected the snowpack's stability in many areas of the province, the alert warned.
Skiers are advised to stay inbounds when skiing, and to especially avoid outbound areas containing gullies.
Three other people have died recently in snow-related accidents: A skier near Revelstoke, B.C. who fell into a tree well -- an area of soft snow beneath a tree -- and two snowmobilers north of 108 Mile House who were killed by an avalanche.
In B.C. alone, approximately 1,200 kilometres of provincial roads are prone to the danger of avalanches in 60 hazardous areas.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Stephen Smart