B.C. avalanche kills Anchorage woman

An Anchorage resident died Saturday morning when she was caught in an avalanche in British Columbia, according to Canadian police.

Amy Downing, 32, was the woman who died in the Saturday avalanche, said her brother Jared Downing. Royal Canadian Mounted Police officials in Nelson, B.C., hadn't formally released Downing's name Monday, but described the victim as a 32-year-old woman.

"She was with her boyfriend at the time," Downing said.

In a weekend statement on the avalanche, RCMP Sgt. Monty Taylor said Amy and two other people — all "experienced backcountry skiers" with avalanche training — were skiing near Qua Peak in southern British Columbia. The outing was their last day of skiing after about a week in the area.

When the avalanche struck at about 9 a.m. Saturday, the skiers were each able to deploy an inflatable avalanche bag.

"After the avalanche two of the skiers located each other and searched for their friend," Taylor wrote. "Utilizing their beacons they located her within minutes half buried and unresponsive. They radioed for help and the female was transported by helicopter into Nelson where she was pronounced dead."

Further details about the avalanche weren't immediately available from the RCMP Monday.


A weekend avalanche forecast for the area from Avalanche Canada warned of "considerable" avalanche danger at treeline and alpine elevations, due to a weak snowpack.

"Conditions are primed for people triggering avalanches," forecasters wrote.

Downing said Amy's party of a dozen people had been staying at a remote cabin before she and her companions left to ski early Saturday, so it wasn't clear whether they had received that forecast.

Amy was a lifelong Alaskan who earned bachelor's and master's degrees at the University of Alaska Anchorage, Downing said. Her job as a nurse practitioner at the Alaska Native Medical Center afforded her a schedule that let her travel; friends and family said she was an accomplished skier, with numerous backcountry trips in Alaska, Canada, Europe and Japan.

"She goes skiing in remote places as often as I go to the grocery store," Downing said.

Amy had spoken with her parents about the trip in advance, Downing said. She had avalanche gear, including an avalanche backpack, but Downing had a sense that she was planning another outing after the holidays.

"The thing she wanted for Christmas was (another) avalanche backpack," Downing said. "So in the back of my mind she was talking about this trip; I knew it was coming up, I didn't know when."

The family plans to write an obituary for Amy in the coming days, and plans to hold a funeral service for her this weekend in Anchorage.

Chris Klint

Chris Klint is a former ADN reporter who covered breaking news.