It has been a busy week for avalanche accidents in BC. Undoubtedly this brings out the armchair commentary that people shouldn’t be backcountry skiing or that they should be held financially or legally responsible in some way for the accident. These accidents help to reinforce that anything can happen to anyone in the mountains.
Education, caution and humility are keys to navigating safely. Remember most of all these are accidents no one intends for them to happen. It is a life changing experience for people who have been involved in a avalanche and lived to tell about it.
I have always thought it is a slippery slope to charge people for rescues or to make it somehow illegal to ski in the backcountry. People who can’t afford the rescues are less likely to call for help creating greater hazards for SAR professionals. It is concerning the commentary coming from people who spend their weekends couch surfing with little to no experience with mountainous activities. The media doesn’t help the situation by painting out of bounds skiing as a sport filled with reckless cowboys with no regard for anyone’s safety.
In fact is quite the opposite most skiers are very mindful of their actions and most people take the proper precautions. But accidents happen and it is terrible when it does. As a society we do not want every step to be legislated so that we have no freedom.
Two incidents this past week on the Duffey Lake Road highlight the dangers in some of the most well traveled spots on the road.
A large slab avalanche was seen from the road in the steep creek basin. It is a super steep entry (40 degrees) which falls away (convex), it does ease midway and it has a bunch of safe zones throughout the whole run then fans out into an open area. I ski cut the run every time. I have long said that Steep Creek is one of the most dangerous areas on the Duffey. It is VERY complex there are avalanche paths everywhere and there is very little skiing that is safe during periods of high avalanche danger. Finding safe up tracks are hard to follow at the best of times. This area is best kept for the days where stability isn’t a concern. Ease of access abundance of runs and great terrain throw in easy access it can be a trap for the un-initiated.
Be careful, be safe and the most important part remember if it feels wrong it probably is!