John Korobanik , edmontonjournal.com
Published: Thursday, January 17 2008
GOLDEN, B.C. - Peter Bowle-Evans was a veteran hang glider who "wanted to make the world a better place" and is described by friends as not the type of man to take unnecessary risks.
The 61-year-old former president of the Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association of British Columbia, became the latest avalanche fatality Wednesday after he and a second skier were caught in a backcountry slide near the Kicking Horse ski resort.
RCMP Corp. Barry Kennedy said the second man, 26-year-old Hugh Southee of Fernie, B.C., survived when the third member of the group, 29-year-old Kyle Chartrand of Canmore, rescued him. The two then found and dug out Bowle-Evans and performed CPR for about 30 minutes but were unable to revive him.
Southee and Chartrand walked about nine hours back to the resort where RCMP and search and rescue officials were informed. Bowle-Evans's body was brought out this morning.
He is the 11th person killed in avalanches in Western Canada this winter and the 24th in the western parts of Canada and the United States.
John Kelly of the Canadian Avalanche Centre said "we're already on pace for our worst avalanche fatality year ... and the worst is yet to come in terms of the months with the highest average number of avalanche accidents and that's January, February and March."
Wednesday's accident occurred in a valley called Canyon Creek accessed by skiers and snowboarders off the top mountain ridge of the Kicking Horse resort.
"He skied the backcountry almost every single day," Bowle-Evans's wife Brenda said."He was no yahoo, he was like a hero to the younger skiers, a 61-year-old skiing with 26 year olds."
Southee did not want to speak to the media and Chartrand left the area to return home.
Bowle-Evans's son, 27-year-old Morgan, said Chartrand and Southee "were young but experienced."
Morgan, who had skied the backcountry with his dad and called the RCMP when Peter had not returned home Wednesday evening, said "it's not the first time we had worried about him."
Brenda said that even though her husband was an experienced backcountry skier, "there's always the risk factors. Mountains are smarter than people."
The avalanche slab was about 50 centimetres thick when it broke, 200 metres wide and slid more than 400 metres. The three skiers had hiked outside the resort, across the Canyon Creek valley floor and up the other side, about 5.5 kilometres outside the ski resort. Morgan said Southee told him Bowle-Evans was first down the slope because he hadn't hiked as far up the mountain side.
"I think he was a little tired," said Morgan who was first put on skis by his father at age four on their driveway. "Dad made about 12 turns and then was out of sight. They thought he was gone and waited a bit. Then the next guy (Southee) went. He made about two turns and the whole thing came down."
The last avalanche fatality in the area was in January 2006 when a snowboarder died in a permanently closed area inside the Kicking Horse area boundary.
"As a resort, our heartfelt sympathies go out to all the family and friends," said Steve Paccagnan, president of Kicking Horse. "Peter was a part of the fabric of the community." Friends of Bowle-Evans described him as a soft-spoken person unlikely to take any unnecessary risks.
"He was pretty safety conscious," said Daniel Emery, a fellow hang glider pilot in Golden. "He was a little eccentric, but very caring and nice. He had slowed down a bit to spend more time with his family. Taking a risk is the last thing I would see him doing."
Brenda Bowle-Evans helped Peter build the secluded rustic log cabin they live in about 20 minutes south of Golden and said her husband "paid a lot of attention to details, it was how he did everything."
Stewart Midwinter knew Bowle-Evans through the hang-gliding association and said he was a "soft-spoken person. I can't say I ever saw him angry or heard him speak poorly of anyone. He just wanted to make the world a better place."
Midwinter worked closely with Bowle-Evans on the hang-gliding site near Golden called Mount 7. "It's one of the best hang gliding and para-gliding sites in the country," said Midwinter. "Peter is the person to thank for the continued existence of that site. And the whole mountain biking community in Golden would be nothing without Peter Bowle-Evans."
Bowle-Evans was a civil engineering technician responsible for studying and planning the realignment of the TransCanada Highway east of Golden, including the construction of a massive new bridge.