Prepare properly before venturing into backcountry: Powder Kings

Know your limits and ride within them

Know your limits and ride within them.

That’s the message from Williams Lake Powder Kings Snowmobile Club Vice-President Rick Seibert after the club, along with Central Cariboo Search and Rescue, have attended some close calls involving snowmobiles in the backcountry so far already this season.

“That’s the No. 1 thing, is to know your limits,” Seibert said. “We’ve had a couple incidents where people have needed help getting off the mountain in the last couple weeks, so if you’re riding in the backcountry ride within your riding experience. The best way to say it is: beginner skiers do not go down black diamond runs, but in the backcountry we have that situation all the time because you’re in an uncontrolled environment.”

Seibert said anyone venturing into the backcountry should also have the necessary tools required to light a fire in the event of an emergency including a saw, along with first aid equipment.

“Water, food, tools: these are all mandatory things,” he said. “If you don’t have an emergency contact device and have all those other things at least you can survive.”

An emergency contact device, such as a SPOT satellite messenger, satellite phone and a GPS device are handy, however, not essential, he noted.

READ MORE: Prolonged drought causing dangerous avalanche conditions

“The other big thing is before you head out in the backcountry let someone know when and where you’re going and when you’re going to be back home,” Seibert said. “Say something like: ‘If I don’t contact you by 9 p.m. tonight come looking for me.’”

Seibert added riders should also check avalanche bulletins for any abnormalities in our area.

Snow conditions currently at Yanks Peak — a popular riding destination 145 kilometres northeast of Williams Lake in the Cariboo Mountains — are phenomenal, Seibert said.

“We’re 40 per cent above average,” he said. “We have eight feet of snow at the cabin right now, and it’s been dumping up there just steady. In the last week we received almost four feet of snow.”

Central Cariboo Search and Rescue, meanwhile, has been busy expanding its members’ abilities to handle emergency mountain situations.

CCSAR held a full day of snowmobile and avalanche rescue practice during the weekend at Big Timothy for its LandSAR team, led by training officer Dawn Unruh and her husband, Kevin — both experienced snowmobilers.

READ MORE: Powder Kings rescue stranded rider

“We had about 10 members and then two helpers, Michael and Matthew Karcher, with the purpose of getting some of our members who maybe don’t always get to use snowmobiles more experience and comfortable in a safe environment with experienced riders, and to get used to the machines search and rescue is lucky to own,” said CCSAR public relations co-ordinator Debra Bortolussi.

Bortolussi said during their training CCSAR members split up into two groups: one for riding and another for learning how to use avalanche beacons and probes.

“Our members who have their AST 1 (Avalanche Skills Training) were teaching the rest of the group the basics of it, and hopefully more members will be going to get their AST 1 training because it’s a really great resource, especially in our area.

“If you look around we’re surrounded by mountain terrain, and avalanche area.”

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