Adventure Club’s Avalanche Training

Quest students tend to get restless during the rainy fall. The long-lasting drizzle holds back prospects of skiers, snowboarders, and climbers alike, with both soggy slopes and wet cliffs. Campus becomes an excitable place for many once October begins to cool down. The access to great backcountry terrain gets many first-timers like me antsy to finally get out there. Fortunately, our good friends in the Adventure Club host what’s becoming an annual avalanche course for those that are new to that genre of skiing, introducing the concepts of avalanche hazards and risk management with both a classroom session and avalanche scenarios in the backcountry behind Quest.

A Quest student searches for the buried backpack with an avalanche beacon
A Quest student searches for the buried backpack with an avalanche beacon

The presentation was interesting and full of a ton of resources and information, but the scenarios on the subsequent day were far more useful. Following a beautiful trek up to Red Heather Hut in Garibaldi Provincial Park, we were split into groups and shown the basic steps to take if someone becomes buried in an avalanche. The first step is pretty intuitive: don’t get caught in an avalanche. If you do, it means you either miscalculated the risks of the area or you didn’t take proper precautions while travelling in the backcountry. Or you were just unlucky. Either way, avalanches are pretty avoidable if you’re careful.

Newly trained backcountry enthusiasts wait at the top of the hill to ride some fresh lines.
Newly trained backcountry enthusiasts wait at the top of the hill to ride some fresh lines.

After the period of instruction and a leisurely lunch in the warming hut, we were once again divided into groups, only this time we were responsible for the entire simulation. The trip leaders buried a pair of backpacks rigged with avalanche beacons  in a stomped out snow field. We then had to track down and uncover the two packs as fast as possible by working quickly and efficiently. It wasn’t the perfect set-up, but simply going through the process of rescue was the real focus of the simulation.

At the end of it all, we congratulated ourselves by skinning up a bit further and skiing some of the first fresh snow of the season, one by one, as per proper avalanche terrain procedure.

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