Over the past few weeks, Fernie Search and Rescue has responded to several situations involving winter recreationists.
The first, on the evening of December 20, involved a lone cross country skier who became disoriented and lost on the trail network below Fernie Alpine Resort. He was quickly found, cold but unharmed, by two SAR technicians and returned to his vehicle.
On December 31, Search and Rescue was tasked by the RCMP to locate 3 missing snowboarders who had ventured into Fish Bowl. They were not prepared for the very deep powder and the impact this had on their ability to safely return to the resort. They also had no avalanche rescue equipment, no clothing appropriate for the -25c weather and no equipment enabling them to move through deep snow. With limited available daylight, a small team of avalanche/long line rescue technicians in a helicopter were able to find the snowboarders just as they had managed to find their way back to the North boundary of the resort. Fernie Ski Patrol transported the three on snowmobile to the base area where they were assessed medically.
On January 8th a group of 11 skiers triggered an avalanche in Orca Bowl. A total of four were affected by the slide, estimated at a Size 2, with one of the party carried down the slope around 300 metres. Thankfully none were fully buried and the group were able to effect a companion rescue to extricate all the affected skiers. Fernie Search and Rescue was tasked to evacuate the injured skiers. Three avalanche technicians responded to the site and three injured skiers were flown back to Fernie and handed over to BCAS with suspected minor injuries.
On January 8th, Fernie SAR was tasked to search for a missing timber biker in the Tent Mountain area on the AB border. The search was initiated by Alberta SAR after the man called for help at around midnight last night. Fernie SAR responded along with Sparwood SAR to send snowmobiles into the Corbin Road area while a CDFL (heli longline) team was dispatched to investigate the Last Known Point (LKP) that was established via cellphone ping. The man, a 43 year old from Lethbridge AB, was found by helicopter close to the LKP, partially buried under his bike in a small avalanche. He was hypothermic but otherwise apparently unharmed.
While the above noted incidents ended relatively well, it could easily have been a far different outcome.
Fernie Search and Rescue would like to remind backcountry recreationists of a few simple steps that will increase safety and reduce the need for call-outs:
1. Have you left a trip plan with someone that includes your expected return time?
2. Do you have a map or navigation device to aid in route finding?
3. When recreating in the many alpine bowls and slopes in and around Fernie, are you and your companions prepared in the event something goes wrong?
4. When travelling in avalanche terrain, do you have the gear (shovel, probe, transceiver at a minimum) and know how to use it?
5. Have you taken into account the current and expected weather conditions?
6. What will you use if you need to spend the night outdoors?
In the event of the need to initiate a Search and Rescue call-out, please remember to dial 911, ask for the RCMP and state that it is a backcountry emergency.
Fernie Search and Rescue is available and willing to help people in distress 24/7 365 days a year and they would like to remind everyone that there is no charge to rescuees for their services.