Video & audio: Skier caught in Kokanee Bowl avalanche speaks about incident

A Revelstoke skier escaped mostly unscathed from a Kokanee Bowl avalanche in late March. We spoke with Zach Birnie about the incident.

Revelstoke skier Zach Birnie survived mostly unscathed from a Mar. 27 avalanche incident in the Mount Mackenzie sidecountry.

In a video he posted to YouTube, Birnie is seen dropping from a ridge into a chute in the Kokanee Bowl backcountry area. Suddenly, the snow beneath his feet gives way and he’s swept down the slope for about 300 or 400 metres.

Birnie screams to his ski companion and swears as he’s swept down the slope.

Birnie said the avalanche broke just behind him and was about 30 to 45 centimetres deep at the crown.

He lost a ski pole and wrenched his shoulder in the avalanche, but other than that was relatively unscathed. He inhaled a bit of snow.

“It was a lot like being trapped in a rip curl underneath a wave is what it reminded me of,” Birnie said.

Birnie said he’s had time to think about the incident and things he’ll do differently in the future.

“I wouldn’t stop next time,” he said. “Just not going in with such hesitation. Skiing it a lot faster and just kind of getting out of that zone where there’s a possibility where the avalanche could carry you.”

In the interview below, Birnie talks of other lessons learned.

Watch the YouTube video above, then click on the Revelstoke Mountaineer interview with Birnie where he describes what was going through his mind and lessons learned in the incident (SoundCloud interview embedded below).


Aaron Orlando is a Revelstoke-based journalist who serves as creative director of and Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. He's been on the news beat in Revelstoke for the past 14 years, serving in senior editorial roles. If you have or call/text him at 250-814-8710.