Celebrating spring, outside

Students welcomed spring by spending a pair of frigid nights in the West Kootenay backcountry

A group of Selkirk College Recreation, Fish and Wildlife Program students welcomed spring by spending a pair of frigid nights in the West Kootenay backcountry. As part of an annual field trip for the program, 10 students and two instructors spent late March in the Selkirk Wilderness Ski tenure near Meadow Creek in order to get hands-on experience for their Backcountry Risk Analysis and Mitigation II and Commercial Recreation Management courses. “We were dropped off on a sparsely treed, east facing slope at an elevation of 2,100 meters and were left with only a three-metre snowpack and the backpacks on our backs,” said Selkirk College Instructor Keyes Lessard. Students and instructors built and slept in trench snow shelters designed to trap warm air generated by body heat. Despite the -16 to -18°C night time lows, the temperatures inside the shelters hovered from -1 to -3°C. This type of shelter is the preference over others because one stays relatively dry during its construction, a very important piece of information to learn for survival in such a harsh environment. Students gained practical outdoor skills including avalanche risk assessment, winter travel and survival. “One can only truly learn the tricks of the trade for the many winter camping challenges hands on,” says Selkirk College Instructor Robyn Mitz. Lifelong soft skills—those skills that most employers are looking for in today’s world of constant change—were also acquired during the trip. Time management, organization and communication are all essential skills to living and surviving in the mountains with minimal supplies. A hot gourmet dinner, a warm and comfortable bed that did not need to be shoveled out for four hours prior to sleeping, a team building game around the pool table and many smiles on tanned faces was the perfect way to experience a commercial recreational business and enjoy the last night of the three night adventure field trip.