Every year 1,700 people need rescuing from the province’s ski hills and back country.
BC AdventureSmart is a not-for-profit organization that works alongside search and rescue, providing outdoor safety education and awareness to the public. Their goal is to reduce the number and severity of search and rescue call-outs.
An official with the group says being safe boils down to the “Three Ts”.
“The main message we promote is Trip Planning, Training, and Taking Essentials,” says Ashley Berte, an outreach educator with the organization.
“The biggest thing we encourage is leaving a trip plan, even if you’re just heading out to the ski resort, letting somebody know where you’re going,” she says. “Things can happen, getting stuck in tree wells, or ending up in a gully, and if people have a general idea of what runs you were on… it makes it a lot easier to find you a lot faster.”
She says people can get into a lot of trouble on the ski runs themselves, let alone going out of bounds.“Training” includes both knowing how to ski the runs you’re on, and how to find your way around the slope if you’re up on the mountain.
“Know your limit and stay within it,” says Berte. And if something does go wrong, “Training” includes knowing first aid and avalanche skills.
The final T is “Taking the Essentials.”
“We have a list of things people should bring with them anytime they head out,” says Berte. “Even if you only have a small backpack, there are a few things you can bring with you in your pockets or jacket if things go wrong.”
The AdventureSmart crew gives away emergency whistles and safety “space blankets” to carry when you ski. The blankets can keep injured people warm while they wait for rescue.
Other items for an emergency kit for back-country skiers include a lighter, snacks and water, a flashlight, an extra layer of clothes, and a multi-tool.
And if you do go out of bounds — which you shouldn’t — stay in place if you get lost.
“Even though it’s the most difficult thing, always, always stay put,” says Berte. “People think they can get themselves out of trouble, but unfortunately it doesn’t always work out for the best.”
Finally, download BC AdventureSmart’s phone app, says Berte. It allows you to put much of the trip planning information into your phone and distribute it to friends or relatives, who can pass on the information should you go missing. The app can be found on the group’s website, adventuresmart.ca