Vernon SAR snowmobile night training exercise at Silver Star, December 2018. (Photo contributed)

Search crews warn snowmobilers not to do ‘something stupid’ Family Day weekend

Lack of preparation and ‘poor-decision making’ contribute to the high number of rescue calls

Snowmobilers who make poor decisions are a source of frustration for Vernon Search and Rescue volunteer Leigh Pearson.

A member of Vernon SAR since 1987, Pearson says the bulk of the volunteer organization’s call-outs this time of year are for lost or missing sledders. And, with the Family Day weekend around the corner, an uptick in snowmobile activity is not out of the equation.

“This time of year, snowmobilers are the ones we get called out to the most. It’s sort of been a thorn in our side,” said Pearson. “In the Vernon area, snowmobilers are a considerable problem due to poor decision-making on their part: going places they shouldn’t go and being unprepared.”

While search and rescue teams throughout B.C. face similar issues, Pearson says the Okanagan Valley sees an overwhelming number of snowmobile-related incidents.

So far this season, Vernon Search and Rescue has been called out a total of nine times for lost or missing snowmobile riders in the area. Five of those calls were received in one day.

They included eight injured riders, two who had gotten stuck in unfamiliar terrain and one who had gotten lost. Several required helicopter rescue.

Related: Man spends cold night in Shuswap’s Blue Lake snowmobile area

Related: Sunday a ‘gong show’ for Vernon Search and Rescue

Shuswap Search and Rescue (SSAR) search manager John Schut said his team has been called to seven incidents involving snowmobiles since December. Of these, three involved injuries and one resulted in a fatality. He said there have been more snowmobile-involved incidents this winter than last in their coverage area.

Pearson said that though all teams in the area are busy during the winter months, Vernon tends to have the most “tasks.” He added last year was an exception with Vernon SAR receiving 50 calls and Salmon Arm and Kelowna both getting more.

All authorities interviewed agreed that while incidents are often unpredictable, people can work to better prepare themselves.

Gord Bushell, general manager of the Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club, said many of the snowmobilers who get lost in the Shuswap’s backcountry do so because of poor judgment in the hours leading up to nightfall.

“Nine times out of 10, it’s three o’clock in the afternoon and they decide to do something stupid. Three o’clock in the afternoon is the time you should actually be going home,” Bushell said.

Pearson said while awareness of safety precautions has increased in recent years, people often go out unprepared.

He said people need to take precautions and “expect to be out all night, even if you were only planning on being there for 20 minutes.”

Pearson suggests riders bring extra clothing, warm water in a thermos, food, no alcohol, a plastic tarp or anything that can be used to make a shelter, and supplies to make a fire. He also advises people to check the weather in advance, tell someone the planned route and travel in groups.

He also suggested riders download of a new app recently launched by the federal government: AdventureSmart Trip, which allows backcountry adventurers to plan out their trip beforehand while providing users useful tips.

Along with avalanche beacons, shovels, probes and other safety gear, Bushell said a means of person-to-person communication can be an invaluable piece of gear to pack before a trip into the backcountry.

He said more and more sledders are purchasing GPS units which allow them to send text messages via satellite.

Bushell noted one group of sledders hunkered down and got a fire going after communicating they were lost but safe. They were located by snowmobile club members the following morning.

Schut and Pearson also praised the effectiveness of communications devices for assisting searches. Schut recommends sledders carry a GMRS radio or a satellite transceiver device like the Spot or inReach.

Related: Snowmobiler dies near Lumby

Related: RCMP looking for witnesses after man died in snowmobiling accident

Related: Snowmobiler dies in Barriere backcountry

To report a typo, email:
newstips@vernonmorningstar.com
.



Follow me on Twitter @BrieChar
Email me brieanna.charlebois@vernonmorningstar.com
Like us on Facebook.

 

Shuswap Volunteer Search and Rescue members marshall at the bottom of the Owlhead snowmobile area to search for a group of lost sledders on Jan. 1.(File Photo)

Just Posted

Port Alberni youth breaks neck in riverbank accident

Fundraiser has been set up for youth and his family

Port Alberni’s high school gets a rainbow crosswalk for Pride Day

Students and staff at Alberni District Secondary School celebrated the official opening… Continue reading

Port Alberni man dies in ATV accident

A Port Alberni man has died following an all-terrain vehicle accident near… Continue reading

City of Port Alberni imposing water restrictions

Stage 1 restrictions go into effect June 17

Port Alberni’s Five Acre Shaker goes green

Music festival has sustainable initiatives planned for fifth year

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

B.C. VIEWS: When farmland protection doesn’t protect farmers

Secondary residences aren’t mansions, families tell Lana Popham

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

Monkey spotted on late-night jaunt in Campbell River

Conservation officers also apparently looking for cougar in the area

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

Most Read