Some calm, measured thinking combined with backcountry experience kept a bad situation from taking a turn for the worse on Whistler Mountain earlier this month.
On Dec. 19, Scott Hinde of Port Moody and his 14-year-old daughter Madison were skiing near Boundary Bowl when they ended up out of bounds.
Hinde said he knew he was out of bounds when the clouds cleared and he saw Cheakamus Lake.
"At that point we were probably about halfway down to the lake, and that was about just after 2 p.m.," Hinde said.
"So we immediately turned around and started boot packing back out, but it took quite a bit longer to get back up than I was expecting."
By 4 p.m., Hinde knew they weren't going to make it out by nightfall and called 911.
When he heard back from Whistler Search and Rescue (WSAR), he was told they would not be able to attempt a rescue before nightfall.
Hinde and his daughter would have to spend the night.
"At that point I was pretty focused," Hinde said. "I recognized that in order to make it through I had to keep focused on the tasks at hand, and the key thing is to be sort of mentally prepared, regardless of how much gear you've got or anything else. If your mind isn't prepared to spend the night... it's not going to work."
Hinde used one of his skis to dig a snow cave for the night.
"I might have dozed for a couple of 15 minute chunks," he said. "I think my daughter slept for maybe an hour."
Hinde kept in contact with the RCMP throughout the night, and just before 9 a.m., WSAR came to the rescue.
According to WSAR manager Brad Sills, Hinde is the perfect example of what to do when you're lost in the backcountry.
"He had very minimal equipment with him, but he stayed calm, he didn't travel at night — which is not a good thing to be doing — and he saved his energy," Sills said.
"It's exactly what we would be emphasizing for people to practice if they're used to going out of bounds, because you can get weathered out at any time."
The new snow that's fallen in recent days has meant WSAR has been busy — Sills said the team had done five rescues in the week leading up to Christmas alone.
With the warm conditions and new snow, Sills said it's important for skiers to pay special attention to snow and avalanche conditions before heading out.
"Conditions are very tricky at present, and with this new snow being added on to it... they're going to be even trickier," he said. "So pay attention, understand what the advisories mean, and modify your behaviour accordingly."
Whistler's backcountry avalanche conditions can be found at www.whistlerblackcomb.com/the-mountain/backcountry/avalanche-advisory.aspx.
Updates on other regions can be found at www.avalanche.ca.
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