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Search-and-rescue teams warn of hazardous conditions over Family Day weekend

Click to play video: 'Skier killed in avalanche near Blackcomb' Skier killed in avalanche near Blackcomb
One person is dead and at least two others have been injured after being swept up in two avalanches near the Blackcomb glacier. Rescue crews warning the snowpack across the Sea-to-Sky is unstable with considerable to high avalanche risk. Catherine Urquhart reports. – Feb 13, 2021

Thinking of heading into the mountains this Family Day long weekend?

If so, search-and-rescue teams are pleading with you to stay in bounds and ensure you’re well prepared for the conditions.

Read more: One dead, two injured in avalanche near Blackcomb Glacier

It comes after a series of recent calls in the Sea-to-Sky region, including a fatal avalanche near the Blackcomb Glacier.

And another avalanche in the Squamish backcountry last week left a man injured and required a military helicopter for help due to poor weather.

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Avalanche Canada listed the avalanche risk in the alpine in the Sea to Sky region as “considerable” on Saturday, while it was rated as “moderate” in the South Coast regions.

North Shore Rescue team leader Mike Danks said the combination of poor weather and dangerous snow conditions are a perfect recipe for disaster.

Read more: Snow blankets B.C.’s South Coast, with more to come

“From the rescue perspective, we’re very limited in what we can do. We cannot get an aircraft up today,” he told Global News.

“We just really want to urge everybody to stay in bounds where that avalanche danger is controlled.”

Click to play video: 'Two skiers rescued Thursday after avalanche near Squamish' Two skiers rescued Thursday after avalanche near Squamish
Two skiers rescued Thursday after avalanche near Squamish – Feb 12, 2021

Wayne Flann, who operates a popular blog about avalanches in Whistler and the Sea-to-Sky corridor says people should always be prepared with the right equipment and information — and can still find themselves in trouble.

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“You can make a relatively good decision but people sometimes don’t realize that it only takes one small incident in all that decision making process to make an avalanche,” he said.

If people do decide to visit their local ski hills, they should head up early and expect crowds.

Big White senior vice-president Michael J. Ballingall is urging them to ski inbounds, as the changing weather cycles have created avalanche risks.

“Stay inbounds,” said Ballingall. “The avalanche conditions outside the controlled recreational boundary, with the winds and the difference in temperatures, the avalanche conditions are extreme.

“We just want to warn people to stay inbounds.”

Danks warned adventurers that the poor conditions would likely result in a delay for any search-and-rescue deployment, as the team must first consult with an avalanche safety officer before heading out.

“You could be looking at potentially no one coming today at all, and not until tomorrow morning. So that really highlights being prepared to stay out all night, if you’re going to take that risk,” he said.

“If you’re backcountry touring, make sure you have your avalanche safety equipment, and somebody with you as well who’s capable of conducting a rescue.”

Read more: 2 men rescued after avalanche in remote area northeast of Squamish

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Along with the “10 essentials,” which include extra clothing, food, water and a cellphone, anyone headed into avalanche territory should also have a shovel, probe and beacon and know how to use them.

Anyone heading to the mountains should also have a plan in place, and let people know where they are going and when they’re due to return.

You can learn more about outdoor safety and precautions at the B.C. AdventureSmart website.

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