Avalanche Awareness Days encourage backcountry safety

Encouraging outdoor enthusiasts to explore training opportunities and stay safe in the backcountry is the focus of Avalanche Awareness Days taking place Jan. 18-19, this weekend.

Organized by local volunteer groups and supported by the Canadian Avalanche Centre, Avalanche Awareness Days events are taking place around British Columbia in communities such as 100 Mile House, where the South Cariboo Search and Rescue (SCSR) are hosting a two day, Level One Avalanche Safety course.

Shane Gunn, backcountry and avalanche director for SCSR, is co-instructing the Canadian Avalanche Association accredited course with Dave Merritt of Prince George.

“The focus of the course is to keep you out of an avalanche,” Gunn said.

This is the second course the organization has hosted this season for those venturing into the backcountry.

Gilles Valade, executive director of the Canadian Avalanche Centre, says it’s important to be prepared when going into the backcountry.

“When you make the decision to go into the backcountry, you need to be able to take care of yourself and your partners. That means avalanche rescue equipment, first aid supplies and awareness of the risk you’re taking.”

Between Dec. 23, 2013 and Jan. 5, 2014, 298 search and rescue volunteers responded to 34 incidents involving 70 people engaged in winter recreational activities in the backcountry. This compares to 66 search and rescue volunteers responding to 10 incidents involving 18 people between Dec. 9 and 22, 2013.

According to the CAC’s website, warm temperatures and sunny skies forecast for the next few days will have a significant weakening effect on the snowpack in the North Columbia — Cariboo Mountains, raising the risk from considerable to high.


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