Nelson Search and Rescue crews gather in the Whitewater Ski Resort parking lot on Wednesday in preparation for the rescue that brought an injured skier out of the backcountry just outside the closed ski hill’s boundaries.

Nelson Search and Rescue crews gather in the Whitewater Ski Resort parking lot on Wednesday in preparation for the rescue that brought an injured skier out of the backcountry just outside the closed ski hill’s boundaries.

‘Freak accident’ near Whitewater Resort mobilizes search crews

Nelson Search and Rescue officials say a man who had to be rescued from Whitewater’s backside by helicopter Wednesday was a victim of bad luck, not a lack of technical skill.

  • Apr. 21, 2011 2:00 p.m.

Nelson Search and Rescue officials say a man who had to be rescued from Whitewater’s backside by helicopter Wednesday was a victim of bad luck, not a lack of technical skill.

Search manager Sam Ellison says the man was skiing with a friend in an out-of-bounds area near the north facing Acidophilus run when “he had a bit of a tangle with a tree well on a stump, and got twisted around and broke his left leg quite badly.”

The man’s friend hiked back to Whitewater Ski Resort, now closed for the off season, and was able to call for help using a satellite phone.

Responsibility for rescues on the crown land Whitewater leases reverts to search and rescue when the resort is shut, but Ellison says his team would have been called out even if the hill were still open, since the skier was injured in an out-of-bounds area.

Nelson Search and Rescue sent a helicopter and longline rescue team onto the mountain at around 2:30 p.m., and kept a ground crew standing by at the resort parking lot area in case the chopper encountered rough weather and had to be grounded.

Though the helicopter team was able to complete the rescue, Ellison and search team member Al Craft say unpredictable mountainside weather was the day’s only major challenge.

“The weather was kind of playing games with us a bit,” says Craft, who was part of the helicopter crew. “We were in and out of heavy snow, and then it would be blue sky. It’s a little bit challenging, but nothing we couldn’t handle.”

Once at the scene, team members sent down two people to “package” the injured skier, who was then airlifted back to the resort.

“He was in good shape,” adds Craft. “He was a big man in his mid-30s, in good shape and he handled it all well. He wasn’t hypothermic at all. He stayed warm and was okay. He was in pretty good spirits.”

Ellison says the injured man is believed to be a ski guide, and was qualified to ski the backcountry.

“It was just one of these freak accidents,” he says, adding the second skier’s decision to return to Whitewater to call for help was the right one “In this particular case, I wouldn’t really say they did anything wrong.”