Caroline Hillyard’s sons looked on in awe as three year-old labrador Joss and Revelstoke Search and Rescue (RSAR) volunteer Jeni Gibbs worked together to find their mom hidden in the snow. The burial exercise and demonstration of Joss’s Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association certified skills was part of a backcountry information day hosted by RSAR at Revelstoke Mountain Resort (RMR) on Saturday.
“We’re out here today to bring some awareness to our community about how to stay safe in the backcountry,” said Gibbs, taking a quick break from engaging with the public at the top of the RMR gondola. “Our resort has a couple bowls on the outskirts of the terrain that can trap people and they can get stuck overnight.”
Gibbs recommended those venturing into the backcountry come prepared and plan ahead.
She said that anyone partaking in adventures outside of the resort should have a trip plan and let their loved ones know when they plan to be back. She also said that if you plan to ski or snowboard in the backcountry, it’s essential you get the proper training and knowledge so that you know how to use your shovel, beacon and probe.
Gibbs said people were receptive to RSAR’s message on Saturday.
Alexander Ryden, who spoke with RSAR at the top of the RMR gondola, said he was grateful to see RSAR out in full force.
According to Gibbs, the RSAR information day comes following RSAR having been sent out on 27 calls in 2018, one of which involved the search for Michael David Foster, who was found dead on Feb. 17 five days after venturing outside the resort boundary.
Foster was alone, is reported to have had little backcountry experience, did not have a trip plan, and did not let his loved ones know of his plans to travel outside of the resort.
A social media post from RSAR said the event was held partly in response to Foster’s death.
RSAR Mike Gunner said those kinds of incidents are not uncommon, and part of why RSAR was out engaging with the public on Saturday.
“It’s not uncommon for people to wander out of bounds and spend the night outside,” said Gunner. “It’s not easy to spend the night outside in the mountains unprepared.”
The full day event saw about half a dozen RSAR members posted at the top of gondola and some of the common backcountry access points. They engaged with the public and made sure backcountry ski and snowboarders were prepared, urging them to plan ahead, carry the requisite gear and know how to use it.
“If we can prevent even one person from spending an unprepared night in the unforgiving mountains that we live in, then this event will be considered a success,” said Gunner in a press release.