Winter Season Shaping up to be Exceptionally Treacherous

Winter Season Shaping up to be Exceptionally Treacherous

With the thirst for getting out into the winter backcountry on the rise, many are worried the season is shaping up to be a treacherous one.

In a recent Globe and Mail article, “Into Dangerous Terrain,” author Justine Hunter captures the concerns Canada’s avalanche professionals and search-and-rescue crews have for the coming season.

Hunter cites three factors that have many worried—all of them related to the pandemic. Rescue resources are limited because many backcountry guiding operations—which often provide mechanized support to rescue efforts—will be running at partial capacity due to the pandemic. (Selkirk Tangiers Heliskiing, for example, will only run one out of their usual nine helicopters this year.) Second, with fewer backcountry professionals operating in the backcountry this season, Avalanche Canada won’t be able to rely on them as much for snowpack data and observations that inform their forecasts. Finally, the winter backcountry is going to be extremely busy.

We do have one thing going for us. There’s a plethora of resources for people to get the training they need to travel safely. People are signing up, too: Virtual classes have drawn high numbers, and recreational avalanche courses are filling up.

Start your education. Online education and resources for Canadians are available here through Avalanche Canada. Americans can start their online education here with AIARE and find a list of courses and providers here. We also highly recommend the book “Backcountry Avalanche Awareness” by Jamieson and Palechuk.

This season it’s more important than ever to have the proper training and gear. Prepare by utilizing your local avalanche forecast, resources, and weather information. Encourage teamwork. Develop a proper tour plan. Utilize checklists and communication to travel safely in avalanche terrain and reduce risk and consequences. Don’t forget to debrief after the day to reflect on and improve decision making. May you all travel safely and find the happiness this winter.


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