Search and rescue worker killed in avalanche recalls as ‘dedicated, happy’ environmentalist

Tenne Bird Andersen, an avid backcountry user and volunteer with Cariboo Search and Rescue, was one of two skiers killed in an avalanche on February 11 on Potato Peak in BC's Chilcotin region.  (Delivery/GoFundMe - photo credit)

Tenne Bird Andersen, an avid backcountry user and volunteer with Cariboo Search and Rescue, was one of two skiers killed in an avalanche on February 11 on Potato Peak in BC’s Chilcotin region. (Delivery/GoFundMe – photo credit)

A search and rescue volunteer who died in an avalanche in upstate BC last week will be remembered by friends, family and colleagues as a “dedicated, cheerful” environmentalist who loved the great outdoors.

Tenne Bird Andersen was one of two backcountry skiers caught in an avalanche on February 11 on Potato Peak in the province’s Chilcotin region.

Her Cariboo Search and Rescue teammates recovered her body.

“The loss was incredibly devastating for our team,” said spokeswoman Debra Bortolussi.

“We just really want to say that the member we lost was a very kind, loving and bright soul with a great love of the outdoors who will be deeply missed by friends, family and the wider community.”

The loss has prompted an emotional plea from the team of 15 about this season’s dangerous avalanche conditions, which have claimed nine lives across BC in less than two months – including seasoned, trained adventurers like Andersen.

“There’s a huge risk, and even a risk that people think they’re prepared or have safety parameters for it… that just doesn’t exist this year. This year that risk is true and it’s there,” said Bortolussi.

Supplied/Simon Fraser University

Supplied/Simon Fraser University

Andersen and a friend were skiing near the east slope of Potato Peak, southwest of Williams Lake. The search and rescue team began searching for the couple after they were reported overdue.

Bortolussi said Andersen completed the Avalanche Skills Training 2 (AST2) course, which was designed for serious and experienced winter backcountry users. Both skiers wore avalanche beacons and other safety gear.

The slope wasn’t particularly steep, Bortolussi said – underscoring how widespread the risk has been this year.

“It was said that if one of our members had looked at it, you would not have guessed that it would be capable of triggering an avalanche that had such dire consequences and resulted in a double death,” she said.

CLOCK | Experts offer safety training as forecasters predict severe avalanche season in BC

Avalanche Canada said the deadly slide occurred in “very remote and rugged terrain” outside of its forecast area.

“There were a couple of factors that we saw from the avalanche,” said senior forecaster Simon Horton.

“One of them was that there were very weak layers, and that’s why we call it a ‘deep, sustained slab avalanche,’ weak snow would have triggered an avalanche.”

Andersen joined the Cariboo Search and Rescue team last year – the same year she graduated from the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University (SFU).

“She never failed to recognize and seize an opportunity, and she was not one to hide from the uncomfortable or the unknown. On the contrary, she assumed it; her philosophy of life was to keep moving toward experiences that would challenge her to grow,” read a statement shared by classmate and friend Dasha Kamalova on the school’s website.

“It’s rare to see someone reach their full potential on a daily basis, but that’s exactly what she did.”

A GoFundMe in support of Andersen’s family said she is “a cheerful, resilient and adventurous human being, sister, daughter and friend.”

9 avalanche deaths in BC in 2023

Nine people have been killed in avalanches across the province this year, including two off-duty police officers, a man from Alberta and two brothers from the United States.

According to Horton, Canada typically averages 10 avalanche deaths in a single calendar year.

Meteorologists have compared this season’s snowpack to conditions two decades ago, during which 25 people died in upstate BC.

People venturing into the backcountry are urged to review the avalanche forecast and make conservative decisions about the terrain they choose to explore. According to official information, an avalanche transceiver, a snow probe and a snow shovel are essential, as is practice in their use.

Avalanche deaths in BC


Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button