News

Islanders must not ignore avalanche dangers

With all the media focused around avalanche dangers on the mainland, Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue reminds people on Vancouver Island that we’re not immune.

While confident in the skills and preparedness of the local team to respond to an avalanche, the CVGSR president and search manager says he knows that prevention, knowledge and the right equipment are essential.

Survival when buried by an avalanche is measured in minutes, Paul Berry says in a news release. Activation and response of a rescue team into the back country is measured in hours.

The recent weather conditions, significant snowfalls, followed by warm weather and rain have combined to create the perfect conditions to create significant slab avalanche conditions here on the Island, Berry notes.

“Remember that out there, avalanche terrain is everywhere and nothing is guaranteed. In fact, people trigger 90 per cent of recreational avalanches,” Berry says.

Essential winter survival skills for outdoor enthusiasts include the abilities to recognize and avoid avalanche terrain. This requires pre-trip planning, knowledge of weather history, knowledge of terrain and solid decision-making skills when in the backcountry, Berry says.

“All who travel in the backcountry should take one of many avalanche self-rescue courses offered locally and practise these skills as a group. If and when an avalanche occurs, effective self-rescue will be the difference between living to tell the story and being one more tragic statistic in our province.”

Prepare yourself by taking an Avalanche Skills Training course (AST) with your friends, he suggests. Details are available at the Canadian Avalanche Centre’s website (www.avalanche.ca/cac/training/online-course). This free online course won’t replace AST program field avalanche training, but it will teach you some basic avalanche first-response skills, Berry says.

Locally, Mount Washington is offering courses, as does Island Alpine Guides (http://islandalpineguides.com).

CVGSAR can offer the Snow Safety Education Program. Designed for school children in Grades 4 to 6, the SSEP teaches the essentials of winter outdoor safety — inbounds and in the backcountry. 

For more on these programs go to www.adventuresmart.ca/snow/snow.htm or contact CVGSAR at 250-334-3211.

— Comox Valley Ground Search

and Rescue

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