It’s been a slow start to the ski season for Golden and District Search and Rescue (GADSAR), who reported a quieter holiday and early winter season than usual.
Their last calls were on December 30, when they responded to a report that someone was calling for help on one of the Dawn Mt. Nordic Ski trails, but did not find anyone in distress along the trail. There was also a call on January 3, when they aided the BC Ambulance Service with patient transport on the road to Alpine Meadows Lodge. GADSAR used snowmachines and a toboggan to get the patient out from an area that was too snowy for the ambulance service to access.
“The snowpack this year in the many areas of the Purcell mountains including Kicking Horse sidecountry is a bit more complex than usual,” explained Zach Berman of GADSAR. “Potentially folks are being more cautious this year, which is a great plan considering the challenges of this years snowpack.”
Despite the slow start, it’s not unusual to see a down turn in activity in the off season, according to Berman. But with winter picking up, GADSAR is ready to go.
“We do have a slower season in the off season between summer with everyone climbing and hiking and when it starts snowing and the mountains become harder to access,” said Berman. “Typically we see less calls in spring and fall.”
GADSAR has been busy heading into the new year, regardless of the amount of calls they receive. In fact, they just finished a major renovation to their building out by the airport.
The renovation included adding a shower to the bathroom, which enhances the current space and allows those working for GADSAR to refresh themselves after a call and before returning to work. There were also major electrical upgrades, which is important due to the amount of power use GADSAR needs when plugging in vehicles and other equipment.
The renovation was funded through donations, task revenue and new funding this year from BC Search and Rescue Association.
“The renovations came from a need for having to update the building, and actually having the volunteers who have the time and skills to be able to do that,” said Berman. “There were some people who were able to come in and give us a really affordable price which was amazing.”
They also put on a major fundraiser for the Kicking Horse Staying Alive conference for an evening of avalanche safety and gear talk as a refresher at the start of a new winter season. The conference was hosted by Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, one of GADSAR’s frequent partners.
The support that GADSAR received at that event was much appreciated by the team.
“Generally we have pretty incredible support from the community,” said Berman. “That includes Kicking Horse and other local operators as well.”
They also have weekly training nights every Thursday.
With the start of the new year, GADSAR has big plans for 2020. They currently are in the final planning and approval stages of a forward operating base to improve response time and capability near Kinbasket Lake.
When going out and exploring the mountain this season, Berman has a couple tips to make sure that you are staying safe.
“Make sure you check the avalanche bulletin and be aware of the avalanche forecast and what’s going on on the mountain, just general preparedness,” said Berman. “Have a plan, a way to communicate, and have a couple extra things in your pack in case you get injured and you need to stay warm while waiting for a rescue.”
GADSAR also facilitates a series of talks and classes on mountain safety and first aid. They also rent out their spare room for non-profit organizations for free, and to other organizations for an affordable $50 fee.