Kamloops Snowmobile Association holds avalanche safety training

By Adam Donnelly
January 22, 2018 - 5:13pm

KAMLOOPS — British Columbia is blessed with an abundance of backcountry recreational opportunities unlike any others in Canada, but with those opportunities comes the increased risk for avalanches. Between 2007 and 2017 134 fatal avalanche events occurred in Canada - 107 of those deaths took place in BC. This weekend, the Kamloops Snowmobile Association held an avalanche safety training clinic, in an effort to keep it’s members safe and arm them with the knowledge and skills necessary to deal with an avalanche situation should they ever encounter one themselves.

It’s a situation no snowmobiler wants to find themselves in: a wall of snow and debris crashing down the slopes, with the potential to bury anything or anyone in its path

Over the past two weekends, members of the Kamloops Snowmobile Association have taken part in an Avalanche Skills Training course hosted by the club, in order to arm themselves with the basic skills and understand what's necessary should they find themselves facing an avalanche.

“I’d say [the Avalanche Skills Training] course is your key to the clubhouse,” Canadian Avalanche Association Avalanche Professional Brad Atkins explained. “For anybody that’s interested in getting out into the backcountry, whether it’s skiing, snowmobiling, snowboarding, snowshoeing, this is the course you’d want to start with.”

Atkins runs Backcountry Avalanche Awareness and teaches the two-day AST Level 1 course. The program is a mix of classroom learning and hands-on instruction in the field, including a simulated avalanche rescue.

Atkins says with the changing climate conditions and improvements to the machines many snowmobilers ride, the potential to get into trouble is greater than ever before.

We've got these more powerful snow machines that will get us further and faster into the mountains. You don’t realize that basically, you’ve got a loaded gun in your hand, is the throttle of a snowmobile,” Atkins said. “We want to give people the ability to identify when the risk and the hazard level has gone up to the point where it is now dangerous.”

Brain Reeves with the Kamloops Snowmobile Association works at Outlaw Motorsports and knows all too well how quickly conditions in the backcountry can change.

“Out in the backcountry… snowmobilers are required to do self-rescue,” Reeves told CFJC Today. “We can’t just pick up a phone a lot of times and just call someone to help us.”

For Atkins, he’s hoping that as the knowledge and skills about avalanche safety increase, the standard for backcountry snowmobilers will do the same.

Kamloops celebrates 12th annual ABC Family Literacy Day