A national program that advocates for safe travel in the backcountry is focusing on raising awareness in Revelstoke this winter.
While people come from around the world to visit the snowmobile mecca of Revelstoke, the area also has the highest rate of search and rescue for the sport.
In 2018, an economic impact study found there were more than 35,000 snowmobiling trips taken in Revelstoke, which is roughly 14 per cent of total trips taken in B.C.
Snowmobiling has the highest percentage of search and rescue calls at approximately 30 per cent of total calls. Most of the calls are in the East Kootenays, including Revelstoke, according to BC AdventureSmart. In 2019, there were roughly 80 calls for search and rescue in Revelstoke. The local rescue team is one of the busiest in B.C.
Although it’s only early winter, Revelstoke Search and Rescue (SAR) has already responded to calls of overdue sledders this season on Boulder Mountain.
However, Operations Manager Giles Shearing said the number of calls has dropped since the start of the pandemic.
“People are dialing back the risk in their outdoor pursuits,” he said.
In an effort to further lower the number of calls, BC AdventureSmart has placed one of its outreach crews in Revelstoke this winter, hoping to educate people on how to navigate the backcountry safely.
Executive Director Sandra Riches said some of the reasons for the high volume of search and rescue calls are due to snowmobilers becoming lost, injured and individuals going on trips that exceed their riding abilities.
While Revelstoke is well suited for snowmobiling with its varied landscape, Riches said part of the problem is how easily accessible terrain can be, which can give riders a false sense of security. As a result, they might not plan as much as needed for trips.
One of the tools offered by BC AdventureSmart is a trip planning app that enables users to quickly and easily create a detailed trip plan and send it to family and friends, which can be helpful to rescue teams in cases of emergency and reduce search time.
BC AdventureSmart is also collaborating with the Revelstoke Snowmobiling Club to help educate riders on how to ride safely and what equipment to bring. The organization will also have a booth at Revelstoke Mountain Resort as skiers and snowboarders are the second most common users of search and rescue resources.
For more information, check out BC AdventureSmart’s website.