Even light load activities can trigger an avalanche. Black Press file photo

Even light load activities can trigger an avalanche. Black Press file photo

Island Avalanche Bulletin reminds backcountry users to be cautious

A greater number of people have been exploring the outdoors and backcountry since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, which has generated a greater number of ground search and rescue calls in B.C., says the Ministry of Public Safety.

This winter, the Island Avalanche Bulletin reminds outdoor enthusiasts to exercise caution when venturing into the backcountry. Even light load activities such as skiing and snowshoeing can trigger an avalanche. Though conditions are still ‘early season,’ the bulletin cautions people to stay alert for open creeks, tree wells, crevasses and other exposed hazards.

Jan Neuspiel — a co-founder of the bulletin who continues to act as an advisor with the service — is the director of Island Alpine Guides, where avalanche safety training courses have booked up faster than usual this year. He notes that Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has deemed avalanche skills training as essential.

“Everyone understands that people are going into the backcountry in numbers that we’ve never seen before,” Neuspiel said. “That’s going to continue to be true this winter. Retail sales of backcountry gear are a good indication of that.”

The Island Avalanche Bulletin is a volunteer-driven, snowpack safety tool that depends on fundraising. It normally hosts several community fundraiser parties, auctions and events to support its work.

“The pandemic has knocked those public events on the head, so they’re scrambling to find ways to raise enough money to keep the bulletin going,” Neuspiel said.

The bulletin is hosting a fund-raising raffle, which runs until Dec. 27 at 11:59 p.m. The grand prize ticket will be drawn the following evening. Kindred Custom Snowboards will build a Cumberland Gap splitboard, or a pair of touring skis for the winner.

Purchase tickets at viavalanche.myshopify.com

For more information about the bulletin, visit islandavalanchebulletin.com

•BC AdventureSmart offers some tips to remain safe when heading outdoors during the pandemic:

Plan:

* Make a plan that explains your destination, travel route and expected return time.

* Know the terrain and conditions.

* Check out the weather forecast to inform your planning.

Train:

* Get the knowledge and skills you need before heading out, e.g., avalanche safety training.

* Know your limits. Stay within them.

Take the essentials:

* Always carry the essentials and know how to use them.

* Add seasonal and sport-specific gear (e.g., microspikes, avalanche transceiver, shovel, probe).