Selkirk Secondary students participate in free avalanche skills training

Selkirk Secondary students practice avalanche transciever and shovelling techniques in a mock companion rescue scenario.

Selkirk High School students participated in a free Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 course last week (March 19-20), put on in partnership with Avalanche Canada, Kimberley Alpine Resort, Treehouse Outdoor Education, Inc. and Selkirk High School.

“With up to six months of winter in Kimberley, it really makes sense to learn as much about it as possible, especially when it comes to winter safety. Selkirk High School provided a classroom over the break, so we could cover the in-class portion of the AST1 curriculum, which includes sources of avalanche information, identifying avalanche terrain, and, critically, the human factors associated with many avalanche accidents,” said Dave Quinn, Avalanche Skills Training coach.”The more we learn about and carefully analyze avalanche accidents, the more we have come to understand that it is not so much what backcountry users know, although this is important, it is the human factors that influence decisions that can result in circumstances that result in avalanche accidents”.

Kimberley Alpine Resort provided 1-way lift passes to students who needed them, so we could get up to the deeper snowpack higher up the mountain to look at more avalanche terrain, and practice our companion rescue skills, which include avalanche transceiver practice, avalanche probe use, and teamwork-focussed conveyor-belt shovelling methods that dramatically increase the chances of survival for anyone buried in an avalanche. Avalanche Canada provided funding for this youth avalanche education initiative.

Participants learned how Moe’s canyon, adjacent to the Kimberley Alpine Resort, is an incredibly dangerous piece of avalanche terrain. With a convex slope leading into steep, open, 30-45 degree, unsupported terrain that drops into a treed gulley it has all the earmarks of a likely spot to trigger an avalanche that would have potentially deadly consequences. In addition, it is adjacent to a family ski hill, and locals can literally see their houses from it, which could contribute to a sense of familiarity, alongside fresh powder that is viewed as a scarce resource in between storms, both of which are human factors that have led even experience backcountry users to make decisions that increase the chances of an avalanche accident.

“In the end we hope to inspire young skiers and boarders to get excited about the backcountry, but to know how to get out there safely, with the right gear and the knowledge about how to use it, and the awareness of the human factors that could push them into making less safe decisions out there. An avalanche course is a great start to a lifetime of safe backcountry travel,” Quinn said.

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