Participants at Saturday’s Avalanche Awareness Day learned skills that could help them save lives in the event of an avalanche.
Rossland and District Search and Rescue (RSAR) hosted the event at Red Mountain, offering participants hands-on avalanche safety gear clinics, and clinics on building emergency snow shelters and digging snow pits.
“We’ve got a transceiver basin, which is a place where there are multiple transceivers — a safety devise for backcountry access — and they can train with it,” said Dave Braithwaite, search manager for RSAR. “We get to train everyone in their tools: probe, shovel. We build a snow shelter, which is something if you’re out alone and you get stuck, you can do it yourself and save your life.”
RSAR volunteers also showed Scouts and Pathfinders how to start a fire in the snow, and taught them to look for bark and old man’s beard to use as fire starters.
Volunteers from South Columbia Search and Rescue (SCSAR) and Castlegar Search and Rescue were also on hand for the day. A SCSAR volunteer led participants in forming a probe line, instructing them on how to move slowly over an area and check the snow with probes as they go.
Participants also learned how to profile snow.
“We do some snow profiling, which is cutting into the snow, and looking at the layers and assessing the different types of snow crystal and how they glide and slide,” said Braithwaite.
It’s extremely important for those who travel in the backcountry during the winter to learn what to do in an avalanche.
“It’s so important for people to learn because then they’re going to live. Without this knowledge, they’re floundering like a fish out of water, and if you don’t experience using transceivers, probes and shovels properly, you’re useless,” said Braithwaite. “And how would you feel if you’re out with somebody and they got buried and you realized you didn’t practice and they passed away? So what you want is to learn these skills so that they’re going to put you in a position of saving lives.”
Those who spend time in the backcountry and are considering taking a full avalanche course can learn more at the Canadian Avalanche Association website, www.avalanche.ca.
To find course providers in the Kootenay Boundary Region, see old.avalanche.ca/cac/training/ast/courses/1.