Warning issued for the back country

Check weather forecast before going and take the right gear

Jason Hewlett / Kamloops Daily News
December 24, 2012 01:00 AM

With thousands of vacationers ready to hit the slopes and the back country, emergency officials caution people not to venture off the beaten path unprepared.

The warning comes after Sun Peaks Resort reminded people that an out-of-bounds rescue could leave the victim with a hefty bill.

Canadian Avalanche forecaster Grant Helgeson said the avalanche danger ranges from moderate within the tree line to considerable in the alpine.

Anyone venturing into the back country to ski, snowboard or snowmobile should check the latest forecast at avalanche.ca before heading out, he said, and equip themselves properly.

Emergency gear includes an avalanche rescue transceiver, a probe and a shovel.

"You need to have all of those things and you need to know how to use them," said Helgeson.

There are two courses people can take; a weekend avalanche skills training course and more advanced training that takes a couple of days.

"They do advanced route finding. It's an incredible course," said Helgeson.

If people properly match their skill level to the terrain and are properly equipped, then the risk of an incident is greatly reduced, he said. It's when there's a lack of equipment that problems occur.

"You can think of these things like the airbag in your pickup truck. Things have gone terribly wrong if you need to use them," he said.

All the trails and runs at Sun Peaks are well marked, so there's no reason anyone should find themselves in danger.

But if they go out of bounds and require assistance, those responsible may be billed for the rescue, said director of mountain operations Jamie Tattersfeild.

About a half dozen people a year need to be rescued, he said. Some times the effort involves a member of the ski patrol and a snowmobile. Other times, search and rescue and the RCMP are dispatched and a helicopter brought into play.

He said the $10,000 bill snowboarder Sebastian Boucher could be fined for an out-of-bounds rescue near Cypress Mountain in Vancouver isn't far off the cost of an elaborate search.

In that case, a helicopter was used to lift Boucher to safety after he spent two days in the cold and snow.

Mike Ritcey of Kamloops Search and Rescue said $10,000 is the low end for a rescue involving a helicopter and other vehicles.

He implored people to be careful and not venture into the back country.

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