While the provincial government is urging people to be prepared and extremely cautious in the backcountry due to high avalanche risk, volunteer members with Alberni Valley Rescue Squad are training for avalanche rescues.
Nine AVRS members participated in an Avalanche Skills Training course with Island Alpine Guides in the Comox Valley area, along with volunteers from Comox Valley Search and Rescue. Volunteers learned to recognize avalanche terrain, basic avalanche formation and release and how to safely travel through avalanche terrain for post-avalanche rescue, AVRS spokesperson Richard Johns said.
“Additional members have continued their training into more advanced course with three members completing the four-day AST2 course, and one member just travelled to the Mainland to complete the four-day Organized Avalanche Response Team Leader course,” Johns said.
“Approximately half of AVRS is now training in safety through avalanche terrain.”
The AVRS covers some of the most mountainous terrain in central Vancouver Island, in the traditional territories of the Hupacasath and Tseshaht First Nations. “During the winter there is always a high possibility that we may need to respond into possible avalanche terrain, and it is vital for our members that they learn to safely work in those areas, and be able to effect a rescue post-avalanche,” Johns added.
Avalanche Canada continues to forecast dangerous snowpack and “we’re urging everyone to exercise heightened levels of caution and vigilance in the backcountry this season,” said Bowinn Ma, Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness.
“This year’s snowpack is being compared t0 2003, which was one of the worst years for avalanche fatalities.”
During the past 10 years, Avalanche Canada notes, 73 percent of all Canadian avalanche fatalities have occurred in B.C. Avalanche Canada expects these conditions to last the remainder of the winter season in some areas.
Avalanche forecasts can be found online at www.avalanche.ca.
Over the last few years the local rescue society has seen an increase in the number of people exploring outdoors and into the backcountry. Some of this comes from trail sharing apps and social media, which means more people are exploring and ill prepared for the terrain, Johns said.