Risk and Outdoor Adventure

January 1st, 2011.

The headlines were grim. Two couples were returning from a day snowshoeing at Chester Lake in Kananaskis Country, AB. Heading north on the gravel road back to Canmore, the SUV went off the road and into the Spray Lakes. Shocked onlookers jumped out their vehicles and waded into the frigid waters, pulling out one woman. They went back for two more people before hypothermia and exhaustion took its toll. Of the four occupants, only one survived.

On page three of the same newspaper, another article outlined a skiing accident near Kaslo, B.C. A woman was snowboarding on a guided trip. The tail guide sweeping the group in the steep, forested terrain did not see the woman as she hit a dip, spun around and fell backward, her upper body buried downhill in the snow.

When the group gathered at the bottom of the run, they discovered she was missing. Guides backtracked and found her by the avalanche transceiver she was wearing, but it was too late.

Backcountry safety in numbers. Photo: B.Kopp

Should tragic accidents like these make you reconsider heading outdoors? Some might think so. In a previous post, I wrote about living life before it passes you by. I think we take a calculated risk every time we head out of the house. Motor vehicle accidents take far more lives than any outdoor adventure.

Heading out into the backcountry armed with knowledge (weather and avalanche forecasts, map, compass), experience and gear drastically reduces the potential for accidents. Pack probes, shovels, and avalanche transceivers in avalanche terrain – and know how to use them. Avoid solo backcountry travel and ski with a buddy. Stay in voice or sight range whenever possible. And remember, avalanches aren’t the only winter hazard.

Drive and play safe in the outdoors and come back with stories of epic outdoor adventures that deserve a bold headline. I, for one, would love to read them.

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