More snowmobilers paying attention to avalanche dangers 

Backcountry users reminded of dangers during this weekend’s Avalanche Awareness Days

When Nelson Bastien began snowmobiling in the Sea to Sky backcountry 30 years ago, he didn't think about the possibility of being swept up in a powerful avalanche.

But now, at 72 years old, he never ventures off in his sled without all the right equipment and the knowledge he gained from an avalanche awareness course.

"I wear all the gear, all the time," he said.

"There is absolutely a definite shift in interest (from snowmobilers) and a shift in people taking part in and communicating more about (the risk of avalanche in the backcountry).

"I'm also a director of the B.C. Snowmobile Federation and all of our literature and everything we communicate is pleading with these people to pay more attention and carry the right equipment."

It's also a message that the Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) is keen to get across, not just to snowmobilers but also to all backcountry users, and one of the reasons for the annual Avalanche Awareness Days, happening in the Sea to Sky corridor from Friday, Jan. 8 to Sunday, Jan. 10.

British Columbia's backcountry continues to beckon to skiers, boarders, hikers and snowmobilers - both the savvy users and the inexperienced.

"More and more people are going well prepared; more and more are going ill-prepared too," said Anton Horvath, Whistler Blackcomb's long-serving avalanche forecaster.

"It's a problem."

During Avalanche Awareness Days there will be a booth in Whistler Village on Saturday and Sunday manned by the dog handlers from the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association (CARDA) and local park rangers.

Weather permitting, B.C. Parks Rangers will also be on the Whistler Blackcomb boundaries at Flute Summit and the Blackcomb Glacier to talk to park users and raise the awareness of avalanche safety in out of bounds areas.

People are also welcome to take part in a film night with guest speakers at the Eagle Eye Theatre in Squamish on Friday, Jan. 8 at 7 p.m., which will showcase the award winning avalanche safety film The Fine Line .

And, conservation officers and community volunteers will also be on hand at the Cat Lake Forest Service Road (FSR) on Saturday and at the Rutherford FSR on Sunday.

"A lot of it is just to educate people about traveling safely in the backcountry," said Horvath.

Cam Campbell, public avalanche forecaster in the North Shore office of the Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC), said the Sea to Sky region is just coming out of a period of considerable or high avalanche danger due to a buried persistent weak layer of surface hoar.

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