Having an avalanche transceiver is crucial in an emergency.
Knowing how to use it is, of course, of the utmost importance as well and it was one of the themes that came up again and again at last month's Avalanche Awareness Days event on Blackcomb Mountain.
Visitors could approach the experts with any safety questions they had, and one recurring theme was avalanche transceivers.
"If it's just the people coming up saying, 'what the heck is a transceiver?' I have a transceiver and I have training and insight," said Sandra Riches, the B.C. co-coordinator for AdventureSmart, a search-and-rescue organization that started here in the province before spreading nationwide.
Riches was at the Avalanche Hut for the event along with Whistler Blackcomb Ski Patrol members Richard Wyne and Jen McGuinness and B.C. Parks senior ranger Kendra Wood.
"Then there are those people who have the gear but maybe haven't practiced as much as they should... they came by and gave it a little hands-on demo with us," said Riches.
"(They) practice a little bit more and learn some insight."
AdventureSmart programming reached over 36,000 people in 2014.
Riches explained her prime focus is search-and-rescue prevention, highlighting the importance of trip planning — charting out a course, timeline, and complete roster of participants — and giving friends that information.
"When and if Search and Rescue does need to look for you, we have somewhere to start," Riches said. "Having a formalized trip plan can be the difference between finding someone in a few hours to possibly a few days."
She added creating the plan also gets athletes in the habit of checking the weather and evaluating their gear before hitting the mountain.
For those looking to get a safety baseline before hitting the slopes, Riches said resources are available for skiers and snowboarders of varying abilities, citing the Avalanche Canada's website at avalanche.ca and avalanche safety training courses, which can span from a couple days to a week depending on the level of experience.
She estimated Avalanche Awareness Days reached "a few hundred (people) face-to-face," but with media coverage, online and social media initiatives, and even the existence of the Avalanche Hut, she said the safety message went far wider even if she and her team didn't necessarily meet with a person.
For more information on AdventureSmart programming, visit www.adventuresmart.ca.
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