Be prepared when going into the backcountry

To the editor;

To the editor;

A number of recent avalanches in British Columbia have had tragic consequences, resulting in deaths in our backcountry. If you plan to enjoy the outdoors, you should be aware of the avalanche dangers and safety tools before you go. There are a few basic precautions to take.

Know the risks. Avalanche awareness signs are posted at key locations along highways travelled by backcountry enthusiasts and at most of the 85 managed snowmobile areas in the province. Keep in mind that historic mine sites and other structures are not always marked and can be extremely dangerous.

Ensure that you have proper training and carry the right gear. For instance, a beacon, probe and a shovel are considered essential for backcountry activities. Skiers and snowboarders should always stay within the marked runs of ski resorts. Straying out of bounds can put you and others at risk.

Plan for any trip to the backcountry by reviewing existing avalanche bulletins and accessing a complete list of essential and recommended equipment, which can be found on the Canadian Avalanche Centre’s website at http://www.avalanche.ca.

Your safety, and the safety of all British Columbians, is a priority for the provincial government.

Funding is being used to improve forecasting and public awareness about avalanche risks, and to purchase equipment such as helicopter-based avalanche beacon signal receivers to help emergency responders locate people from the air.

We all recognize that this province is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Please take the time to respect the terrain and educate yourself about its inherent dangers before you enjoy it. Knowledge and preparation could help to save your life and the lives of the people around you.

By Rich Coleman

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General