Safety comes first in the backcountry of BC

British Columbia is known for its beautiful backcountry, but it is important to remember to enjoy it in a safe and responsible manner.

British Columbia is known for its beautiful backcountry, but it is important to remember to enjoy it in a safe and responsible manner.

Every year approximately 14 people across Canada die in avalanches, and of those, about 65 per cent happen in B.C.

“When there’s enough snow to ride, there’s enough snow to slide,” said Joe Lammers, a public avalanche forecaster with the Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC). “We’re definitely into avalanche season and our bulletins are in full fling.”

The provincial government is committed to ensuring that those who venture into B.C.’s backcountry understand the risks and take all the necessary precautions. They recommend that anyone who plans to spend time in the backcountry take a recognized avalanche skills training course (offered through the Canadian Avalanche Centre).

The CAC, head offices located in Revelstoke, is a non-government organization that provides up-to-date information on avalanche and snowpack conditions, as well as delivering avalanche safety programs, public avalanche awareness and education programs, and act as a central point-of-contact for avalanche information.

Avalanche Skills Training (AST) courses are strongly encouraged for anyone going into the mountains. These courses offer both classroom and in-the-field training sessions that give outdoors enthusiasts the ability to recognize and avoid avalanche terrain and effectively rescue a member of the group buried by an avalanche.

The course goes over basics like ensuring you have the proper equipment (a shovel, transceiver and a probe), and knowing how to use it. Also watching for an increase in precipitation or a sudden rise in temperature, and avoiding having multiple people on the same run at the same time.

“It covers everything from interpreting the bulletins and understanding the language used, to recognizing safe terrain,” said Lammers. “It has to be intuitive because under stressful situations you don’t want to be doing the stuff for the first time.”

All of this information, including where to find local AST courses, can be found on the CAC website at www.avalanche.ca.