BC Coroners Service urges proper preparation for backcountry outings

Right now is a particularly dangerous time to be in the mountains

  • Mar. 9, 2013 2:00 p.m.

The destructive power of an avalanche is awesome

VICTORIA – Avalanche season is reaching its peak in British Columbia. The BC

Coroners Service is encouraging all those going out into the backcountry – be it

on skis, snowboards or snowmobiles – to take special care to ensure their own

safety and that of others.


The BC Coroners Service, working with the Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) and

Emergency Management BC (EMBC), has found that over the past several winters,

avalanche awareness has been improving. A higher proportion of backcountry users

are carrying essential avalanche safety equipment-transceivers, shovels and

probes. Avalanche airbag packs are highly effective when worn/deployed properly

(including the leg-strap).


However, many still have not taken enough training to use that equipment with

maximum effectiveness. A person buried in an avalanche can suffocate in minutes

– long before help can arrive – so the ability to perform quick and effective

self-rescue and companion rescue is vital.


Information about training courses is provided through the CAC. On the CAC

website at www.avalanche.ca – you will find a basic online course, as well as

information on introductory and advanced Avalanche Skills Training courses. This

training is essential for anyone planning to venture into the backcountry in



A study by the BC Coroners Service of avalanche deaths from the past 16 years

found that:


Between Jan. 1, 1996, and Dec. 31, 2012, there were:

* An average of 10.1 avalanche-related deaths each year.

* During this period 127 avalanches caused 181 deaths. Twenty-nine of these

avalanches caused multiple deaths.

* The average age of the decedents was 36.1 years.

* 90.1 per cent of decedents were male and 9.9 per cent were female.

* 68.0 per cent decedents of avalanche-related deaths occurred in the Interior

region, 21.5 per cent in the Northern region, 8.3 per cent in the Metro region,

1.7 per cent in the Island region and 0.6 per cent in the Fraser region.

* 40.9 per cent of decedents were snowmobiling, 30.9 per cent were skiing, 18.2

per cent were heli-skiing, 5.0 per cent were snowboarding and 4.4 per cent were

hiking or climbing.


Virtually all of these deaths were preventable.

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