Norona Speaks to the North Shore NEWS | Mountain Sledder
Winter is my favorite time of the year, especially like this year when there’s a thick blanket of snow on the mountains with regular powder days.
I spend six days a week off in the backcountry on snowshoes, skis and snowmobiles enjoying our amazing terrain and the opportunity it provides for personal reflection.
If you’re a winter enthusiast like me, then I hope you recognize and know how dangerous it can be out there, especially if you don’t have the proper training or experience. If you don’t have the experience or knowledge yet, the best part is that gaining and learning that knowledge is super fun.
If you’re a resort skier, the most important thing to remember is that the boundaries and closed areas were set by avalanche and ski patrol professionals who have years of experience in that terrain. There’s no excuse to push beyond those boundaries or closed areas, and many people who’ve done so have paid with their lives.
If you choose to step off into the B.C. backcountry then you are more than welcome to, but only after you enroll in an Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 course. If not, you’re playing Russian roulette with a stacked house. Courses are available anywhere from mountain guides throughout B.C. and they will educate you about the equipment, avalanche terrain and how to mitigate the dangers. Check the Canadian Avalanche Association’s website (www.avalanche.ca) for a list of guides in your area as well as to check on current conditions.
Secondly, you need to have all the right gear. You should always carry the 10 essentials, which consist of a compass, flashlight, knife, extra food and clothing, shelter, fire starter, map, communication device and a first aid kit.
In addition, you also need proper avalanche gear, which consists of an avalanche beacon, probe and shovel. An avalanche beacon is worn on your body and transmits a signal when turned on. In the case of an avalanche, a beacon can be switched to search mode to find a buried beacon and person. Backcountry Access (www.backcountryaccess.com) makes one of the best, well-priced digital beacons on the market. Their Tracker and New Tracker 2 digital beacons are simple to use, making them ideal for all backcountry users. During an avalanche things can get pretty confusing so an easy-to-use beacon is what you want.
I use Genuine Guide Gear’s (www.genuineguidegear.com) avalanche probe and shovel, as they were designed by top guides for top guides. A probe is a series of lightweight poles strung together by a steel cable to form one long pole. In the event of an avalanche, once you locate the area of the buried victim by beacon, you use a probe to pinpoint the body under the snow as well as see how deep they’re buried. This is where the hardest work comes in the form of shoveling. G3’s avalanche shovels are made of extremely durable aluminum and have a telescoping handle for good leverage. Avalanche snow and debris can be as hard as cement so if you have a plastic lightweight shovel, replace it with a proper aluminum one.
I also use radio communication when I’m out in the mountains and ensure my whole group knows the plans for the day and know at anytime if they feel uneasy they can call it off and we will all turn back.
Playing in the mountains is both fun and exhilarating, but it can also be very dangerous if you don’t treat it with respect. Brush up on your skills and then go play.
Adventurer Dave Norona would love to thank search and rescue and avalanche professionals for all they do. His mountain adventures are supported by Ski-Doo, Genuine Guide Gear and Mountain Hardwear.