Every year, 14 people in Canada die in Avalanches, and 80 per cent of those deaths occur in B.C., according to the Ministry of Justice.
“With any activity, you need to be aware of the risks and the hazards. You need to make sure that you’ve got the proper equipment and that you’ve got the proper knowledge and skills to be able to use that equipment in the event of an incident in the outback or in the wilderness,” said Brian Lamond, search manager with North Peace Search and Rescue.
“If you’re going into an area where there’s known avalanches or there’s an avalanche risk which most mountains do have, anything over about 35 degrees, you need to have some training.”
The training provided by the Canadian Avalanche Association allows people to understand the risk and identify the proper routes and areas to avoid. In addition, the course also teaches people to evaluate the terrain and to determine what’s the safest way to travel in the area, according to Lamond.
An avalanche can occur anywhere there is snow and an incline.
“Earlier this winter, we had an avalanche on the Hudson’s Hope Highway. We’ve had avalanches in the mountainous areas around Chetwynd and Hasler and down into Power King. There’s avalanches that happen every winter,” said Lamond.
Cpl. Jodi Shelkie had some tips to help make sure that people enjoying the outdoors do so safely.
“People often think, ‘I know this area really well and there’s never been avalanches in this terrain,’ but it can happen anywhere, so you really need to check the avalanche hazards,” she said.
Since 2001, the B.C. government has provided the Canadian Avalanche Centre with a total of $1,490,000, which has allowed the centre to provide daily bulletins for most regions.
Shelkie also recommends making sure that people venturing out have the proper equipment such as peeps, probes and a little shovel so that if someone does get buried in an avalanche you can get them out.
However, without knowing how to use the equipment, it’s useless.
“They’ve got [to have] the proper training to use that equipment. Then, knowing what the emergency procedures are if somebody does unfortunately get buried. There’s the spot devices which are emergency beacons that if you get yourself into trouble, you can activate them and it will activate emergency services to provide assistance,” said Lamond.
Because an avalanche can occur without warning, it’s important to be prepared by having a first aid kit as well as being up to date on first aid by taking first aid courses.
“There’s just so many things that can happen in the back country … if they don’t have basic skills on how to do route selection or how to avoid hazardous areas, they could be putting themselves and the rest of the people with them at risk.”