If you’ve been following the news lately, you would have no doubt heard about the unfortunate snowmobiler avalanche fatalities in Revelstoke, BC. It always saddens us to hear about these accidents and our thoughts go out to the family and friends of those who were involved. Avalanches are powerful and mountains demand respect.
There are resources available to give you insight into current hazards in Canada’s West. The Canadian Avalanche Center posts a daily bulletin and the ACMG Mountain Condition Reports give firsthand accounts of guides who have been out in popular areas. These are web-based resources written by professionals to help you make decisions. If you do spend time out in the mountains during avalanche season, you should take an avalanche safety course. Yamnuska and most other avalanche course providers have very reasonable prices for recreational courses and we keep our prices low because we believe everyone should be able to get out and enjoy the backcountry year round. If you just aren’t comfortable making decisions yourself but still want to get out and enjoy the winter, hire a professional ski guide.
We had a keen group of 10 head out to do the 4 day Wapta Traverse ski tour starting last Thursday. On day 3 when the group started their pass through the Balfour High Col (the same day as the Revelstoke fatality), our guides James Blench and Nick Rapaich decided it wasn’t safe to do so and turned back. These are always difficult decisions as everyone was keen to complete the traverse but our guides made the right call. The safety of our guests is our first priority and our guests supported that decision. James and Nick adjusted the itinerary, managed to get in a summit of Mt Olive and gave everyone a memorable Wapta experience. This is the value of going with experienced guides and leaders. Their decision to not attempt the Balfour Col was supported in the numerous natural and remote triggered avalanches the group witnessed that day.
Anyone who spends time in the mountains know that conditions are always king. I feel good about the decision our guides made and was relieved to get their check-in call. Mountains are risky, but with education, experience and good decision making you can decrease that risk. We had Barry Blanchard heading out on a 6 day Wapta ski tour which left yesterday and our experienced guides and operations staff met before the trip to discuss snow conditions and adjust the itinerary.