Over the past month, many SAR groups trained to improve their team’s understanding of avalanches and how to keep themselves, and their teammates, safe when in avalanche territory. CSAR member Nathan, a paramedic and ski patroller, has compiled a short summary of ‘the basics’, so if you don’t know the first thing about avalanche safety, here’s a good place to start!
- Acquire the required avalanche gear and practice using it on a regular basis. At a minimum, you and the members in your party, should carry a shovel, probe and transceiver and you should all know how to use them!
- Carry the 10 Essentials at all times and be prepared for any situation. Remember, a SAR team could take hours to get to you, so always be prepared with warm clothes and a shelter in the event you get injured.
- Take an AST (Avalanche Skills Training) Course, which will teach you the basics of avalanche formation and how to identify avalanche terrain using the Avaluator card. You will also learn basic companion rescue and how to use the resources available to you, such as the Avalanche Canada Forecast, to better prepare yourself before you head out. Remember that this is just the start of your learning, by no means are you an expert after taking this course!
- Start making educated decisions before you ever leave the house. The Avalanche Canada Forecast, Mountain Information Network and Mountain Weather Forecast sites are invaluable tools meant for recreational backcountry users and they can all be found via avalanche.ca.
- Make a trip plan, like the one we have available on our website, and give it to someone you trust.
Becoming familiar with avalanche safety is a fantastic start, but staying safe requires using those skills, and making good decisions, the entire time you are out.