Avalanche season is upon us — no pun intended — which means it’s time to sit down and have a conversation with those adrenalin junkies we know and love to let them know we need them to be responsible in the backcountry this winter.
The allure of untouched pow — champagne powder snow, that is — is tremendous.
It’s a temptation that many folk who find endless comfort in between the four walls of their cozy living room on a below zero day can hardly understand.
It’s a call that demands money be spent, skill training be had and expensive gear be purchased — all simply to ski or ride or sled, whatever your form of transportation, down steep slopes of frozen water.
As if that wasn’t enough; it’s also a call that appeals to the passions, beyond the logical, practical thinking that is so characteristic of the daily grind. As a result, it puts people in danger and lives at risk.
This December 28, it will be four years ago to the day that 8 snowmobilers were killed by a back-to-back series of avalanches in Elk Valley, near Sparwood approximately three hours from the Columbia Valley.
The men who died were all locals and experienced outdoorsmen as well as best friends, husbands, boyfriends, brothers and sons.
On December 29 last year, in 2011, an experienced Whistler Blackcomb ski patroller was killed in a backcountry avalanche near Pemberton.
These are just two examples. The province, on average, sees 14 avalanche deaths each winter season.
And then there was the Class 3 avalanche that ripped through an out-of-bounds area up at Panorama in April earlier this year, although thankfully there were no victims.
Avalanches are just one of the inherent risks associated to spending time in the mountains, but the risk can be mitigated through careful planning, forethought and increased awareness.
Mother Nature is a powerful, unpredictable force that doesn’t discriminate, so the next time you see your favourite outdoor adventurer gearing up in Gore-Tex, revving up their sleds or waxing their skis and snowboards, remind them to — at all costs — err on the side of caution.