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Posted: March 23, 2018

Backcountry avalanche risks and safety tips

As this winter has been unusually snowy, outdoor enthusiasts, such as hikers, skiers, snowshoers, snowboarders and snowmobilers, are urged to check the avalanche forecast before venturing into remote areas at:

Please pay close attention to changing conditions.

The following safety tips provided by the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General Emergency Management BC are strongly recommended for anyone planning to enjoy British Columbia’s backcountry as spring takes hold in winter-laden mountains.

* Never travel alone.

* Planning ahead is a must. Before heading outdoors, leave a trip plan with family or friends, and stick to it. For a printable copy.

* Be prepared for the elements with the essentials. These include extra water, layers of clothing, a shelter and something to start a fire with, so you can keep warm overnight.

* Carry a signaling device (such as a whistle) so that searchers can find you, even if they can’t see you, as well as communication and navigation devices, such as a fully-charged cellphone, compass and/or GPS unit.

* Don’t venture out-of-bounds, or away from marked trails.

* Be aware of how far you’ve gone and when you need to turn back to avoid hiking in the dark. Be aware of the time the sun sets, and always carry a flashlight just in case.

* If you become lost, don’t keep moving. Stay put and wait for help. Don’t presume by moving downhill that you will get back on track – it can lead you into dangerous terrain.

* Take conditions into account and plan appropriately. Err on the side of caution. Learn more about avalanche safety and risks, and get the most recent bulletin and weather forecast at: and

* Everyone who takes part in a backcountry outing needs avalanche training with proper equipment, including a shovel, a probe and a transceiver. More information on training and safety equipment is available:

* For real-time, specific information on local conditions, visit the Mountain Information Network.

Avoid hypothermia by remembering the acronym COLD:

* Cover: Wear a scarf, hat or toque, mittens or gloves, and even a balaclava, if necessary.

* Overexertion: Avoid activities that will make you sweat a lot. The combination of wet clothing and cold weather can cause you to lose body heat more quickly.

* Layers: Wear loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing. Wool or silk are great choices. Outer clothing made of tightly woven, water-repellent material is best to protect against the wind.

* Dry: Remove wet clothing as soon as possible. Be especially careful to keep your hands and feet dry, as it’s easy for snow to get into mittens and boots.

You should also know the signs of hypothermia. They include constant shivering, confusion, poor decision making (such as trying to remove warm clothes), drowsiness and shallow breathing. More information is available from the Canadian Red Cross.

PreparedBC is British Columbia’s one-stop shop for disaster readiness information. For tips on how to prepare an emergency plan and what to include in an emergency kit, visit PreparedBC.


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