A 36-year-old man has died in hospital in Calgary, Alberta, after being caught in an avalanche near Golden in British Colombia on Friday 9 February 2018. The as yet unnamed victim was buried under 3 metres of snow then dug out by witnesses to the event in the Hospital Creek area, which is popular with snowmobiling enthusiasts, and airlifted to the hospital due to the severity of his injuries, but could not be saved and died on 16 February.
The approximate location of the 9 February 2018 Hospital Creek avalanche. Google Maps.
Avalanches are caused by the mechanical failure of snowpacks; essentially when the weight of the snow above a certain point exceeds the carrying capacity of the snow at that point to support its weight. This can happen for two reasons, because more snow falls upslope, causing the weight to rise, or because snow begins to melt downslope, causing the carrying capacity to fall. Avalanches may also be triggered by other events, such as Earthquakes or rockfalls. Contrary to what is often seen in films and on television, avalanches are not usually triggered by loud noises. Because snow forms layers, with each layer typically occurring due to a different snowfall, and having different physical properties, multiple avalanches can occur at the same spot, with the failure of a weaker layer losing to the loss of the snow above it, but other layers below left in place - to potentially fail later.
Diagrammatic representation of an avalanche, showing how layering of snow contributes to these events. Expedition Earth.
In this instance authorities in British Colombia had issued several avalanche warning for the area, after a series of storms blowing in from the northeast Pacific had dumped repeated layers of snow onto the mountainside.
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