Nelson Search and Rescue is thinking about installing signage in the Five Mile drainage area near Whitewater Ski Resort after finding missing skiers there for the third time this year.
They, along with search teams from Kaslo and South Columbia were called out Saturday after the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria received a distress signal Saturday evening.
RCMP were able to trace the signal to a group of four backcountry skiers who were overdue.
Search and rescue manager Scott Spencer said due to darkness, avalanche danger and the fact the group was well equipped, a team was sent to drive the Whitewater road overnight to help the missing skiers if they made it out to the road on their own.
A helicopter rescue team and ground crews were sent out at dawn to check the location of the distress signal.
“The team did several passes over the thickly forested valley with the helicopter without success but some of the crew in the helicopter could smell wood smoke in an area of thick trees,” Spencer said in a news release. “With further investigation in the area the missing group was discovered deep in the valley bottom in a makeshift camp.”
They had built a snow cave for shelter and had a fire going which they used to signal the helicopter. The ground team reached them shortly after 9 a.m. and found them cold and tired but otherwise in good spirits.
Despite knowing the area well, they had become disoriented in poor visibility and skied in a circle before they realized they were in trouble and sent out the distress signal. The four were taken to a landing site and flown out to safety.
Spencer said the area has been a frequent site of rescues in recent years due to the the terrain and structure of the valley.
“It has become common for even well-equipped and experienced backcountry enthusiasts to become lost in the area,” he said. “Nelson Search and Rescue will explore the possibility of having signage installed to aid in navigation for those enjoying our beloved backcountry.”