As freeing as being in the wilderness – hundreds of miles from another soul in the dead of winter – can feel, carelessness can result in a deadly trap.
According to Avalanche Canada statistics, 11 people have died as a result of avalanches in British Columbia since 2016.
While Mother Nature can be unpredictable, back country aficionados can always prepare to give them the best possible chance of a safe return home at the end of their trip.
The first step is education.
Full Throttle Motorsports hosted a free avalanche awareness seminar at their shop on Nov. 8.
Seventy-four snowmobile riders attended the event, which was facilitated by Dave Merritt of Outside Ventures.
The seminar focused on terrain awareness, group decisions and safety gear. It was a solid refresher for those who possess avalanche skills training and an eye opener for those who don’t.
Merritt has spent many years doing mentorships in order to become a professional member of the Avalanche Association and is a strong proponent of safety in the back country.
He says these types of seminars are valuable for anyone. “There’s avalanche terrain within most city limits in British Columbia,” Merritt says. “I live in Prince George and we have avalanche slopes there.”
Many adventurers need to take into account they are putting more lives in danger than their own when taking unnecessary risks. This can include their travelling partners as well as search and rescue teams that get called if the worst occurs.
“If you’re traveling with a group of friends and you know what the risks are, you can have those candid discussions of whether you want to do it or not,” says Merritt.
“If you’re ignorant to what you don’t know or don’t want to learn it, then you’re putting yourself and everybody else at risk.
“We all want to enjoy the back country, we all want to enjoy the outdoors but we need to ensure that we have an understanding of the risks we’re actually taking.”
One of the key benefits from these seminars is they get people thinking and exchanging ideas.
“I had a lot of people come up and talk to me afterwards about potential risks they were taking where they didn’t realize things were risky,” Merritt says
It generated a lot of discussion,” he continues. “There’s a few of us around Western Canada doing these things and that’s what we want, for people to start having those discussions.”
Full Throttle’s owner Brad Dunn is a big advocate for snowmobiling, and is a director for the Wells Snowmobile Club. Avalanche awareness is something very important to him and the company.
His continued support of the sport is one of the reasons he was awarded the BC Snowmobile Federation’s (BCSF’s) Excellence Award for Outstanding Dealership this year. The local company won the award out of 77 nominees, the largest number of submissions in BCSF history, according to the Federation’s website.