Avalanche Safety

Avalanche Safety

Avalanches KootenayThe following are some basic guidelines:

  • Drivers should avoid stopping in posted avalanche zones.
  • Many of the backcountry trails travel through avalanche-prone terrain and require a skill-set for evaluating avalanche risk. Backcountry skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers and hikers should be well informed about the type of terrain they will encounter when embarking on a backcountry trip in the winter.
  • Travel in avalanche prone terrain also requires the use of specialized equipment (avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel). Use of this equipment requires practice, and instruction from a skilled user.
  • Avalanche Bulletin
  • The National Parks backcountry is managed as a natural area, and as such many natural hazards exist. Backcountry travellers are responsible for their own decisions and safety – becoming well informed is a good start.

New Standard of Care for Youth Groups in the Backcountry
Effective immediately, new policies have been introduced for custodial groups planning backcountry travel in the mountain National Parks (Banff, Yoho, Kootenay, Jasper, Mt. Revelstoke, Glacier, and Waterton Lakes). These policies are in effect from Nov 15 – Apr 30 each year, and have evolved significantly since they were first introduced in April 2004.

Parks Canada has established a new standard of care, and custodial group leaders have new obligations and pre-trip planning considerations they must understand.Parks Canada’s goal is to encourage our youth to travel in their mountain parks, while at the same time receiving appropriate leadership in suitable locations. The information contained within these pages attempts to offer a strong resource for custodial groups who plan to undertake backcountry travel.

Equipment checklist for winter backcountry travel 

Being well prepared and properly equipped for backcountry travel is essential. The equipment and clothing that you bring with you on your mountain trip has a direct effect on your safety and comfort. Its important to think carefully about each item you’d like to bring, and prioritize what’s essential – and what’s not.

Spend some time with your equipment before leaving on the trip – learn how it works, make sure it fits, and run through the checklist one more time before leaving home. Mountain weather can be fickle, ranging from baking heat one minute, to cold and windy the next. Layering your clothing is the most efficient strategy to deal with this, and allows you adjust your temperature with the weather conditions. Try to think of your clothing as a system, with one piece complimenting the other.

This list can be used as a guide when preparing for your trip. Not every item listed here will be necessary on every trip – but go through the list and decide what is necessary for your trip.

Clothing Suggestions

  • Fleece jacket or warm sweater
  • Warm pants with a cuff to keep out the snow
  • Shelled jacket and/or pants (water repellent/breathable)
  • Long underwear top and bottom q Insulated jacket (down, synthetic, etc)
  • Warm socks with liner socks (reduce blisters)
  • Warm hat or sun hat
  • Warm, shelled gloves or mitts

Personal Equipment

  • Pack (well fitting, 30-40 litres for day trips)
  • Avalanche transceiver (with strong batteries)
  • Collapsible avalanche probe
  • Collapsible shovel
  • Watch
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip protection
  • Water bottle and/or thermos, and food
  • Lighter or waterproof matches
  • Pocketknife
  • Camera
  • Headlamp (good during the darkest months)

Equipment for Travel on Snow

  • Skis, snowboard, or snowshoes
  • Poles with good baskets
  • Comfortable ski or snowboard boots
  • Skins (fit well with lots of glue – check at home!)

Group Equipment

  • First-aid kit
  • Cell or Sat phone (record emergency numbers)
  • Bivouac sac or small tarp (emergency shelter)
  • Map and compass (bring route info)
  • Repair kit

Source: Parks Canada