FORTRESS MOUNTAIN -- Two Calgarians are dead following an avalanche at this ski resort.

Authorities say the victims -- 17- and 22-year-old males -- were part of two separate snowboarding parties that had traversed into an out-of-bounds area known as the First Chute when an avalanche toppled at least eight of them before noon yesterday.

The avalanche knocked three people down and dragged them to the bottom where the other group was stationed.

"From that we ended up with two fatalities, one from each group," said Canmore RCMP Sgt. Don Cohn.

It was the last day of the season at Fortress.

Officials say it was a naturally occurring avalanche and wasn't caused by the snowboarders.

Ski-patrollers, search-and-rescue crews and conservation officers quickly scrambled to the site in a desperate bid to locate victims trapped under the slide.

One victim was located immediately on the surface while the other was found less than three metres under the heavy snow.


None of the boarders was wearing avalanche transceivers.

Cohn said the two were killed almost immediately.

Officials last night were trying to locate the next of kin before releasing names, he said, adding the search was called off shortly after 1 p.m.

"We are confident there is no one missing."

A female snowboarder was flown to Calgary's Foothills hospital by helicopter where she was last listed in stable condition, Cohn said.

One of the victims was identified as a 17-year-old Calgarian, Kevin, who was snowboarding with his sister and others at the time of the tragedy.

"He was the same age as my kid," said a bleary-eyed Don, a friend of the family who asked his last name be withheld.

Don and a buddy were heading up a lift near the southern boundary when they heard a young girl screaming.

Jumping from their chairs at the end of the ride, the pair grabbed shovels and long poles and joined several others who raced up the mountain.

The group probed the snow with the poles and dug frantically with shovels as nearby paramedics carried one body away.

Tim Matheson and Liam Morris, both of Calgary, were riding another lift up the mountain when they heard what sounded like "tarp in a 200-m.p.h." wind.

"It was like thunder, just incredible," said Matheson, who joined in the search and located a single mitt and video-camera bag.

Fortress Mountain official Neil Jackson reported the same area had been blasted the night before as part of an avalanche safety measure.