Everyone can benefit from Backcountry Awareness Day

By Contributor
February 5th, 2020

Rossland Search and Rescue (RSAR) is hosting Backcountry Awareness Day on Saturday, February 8 at Red Mountain Resort.

RSAR normally holds Avalanche Awareness Day in January, but this year decided to expand its efforts to include backcountry safety more broadly. “While avalanches are a serious risk, most of the calls we respond to relate to lost or injured people in the backcountry,” explained Robin Beech, President of RSAR. 

Backcountry Awareness Day will include information on what to do if you are lost in the backcountry, including how to build a fire on snow and how to build a snow shelter. Avalanche rescue skills will also be covered, with stations to learn and/or practice transceiver and probing skills and backcountry first aid. See the full schedule below.

Mark Gayowski, a Rossland-area man who went astray and was found by SAR searchers on New Year’s Day, will be on hand to talk about his experience. Taking a quick out-of-bounds run before ending his ski day, Mark left Red Resort and ended up spending two nights out in the woods in very rough terrain on the side of Esling Creek. 

“Esling Creek is a well-known trap for backcountry skiers. It’s where a large percentage of our lost riders end up,” says Robin Beech. “The terrain is steep and littered with enormous logs, making for a difficult search.” 

Almost 90 volunteers devoted more than 600 hours searching for Gayowski over three days, including teams from Rossland, Fruitvale (South Columbia), Castlegar, Grand Forks, Nelson, Kalso, Kimberly and Cranbrook.

Mark learned the hard way that it’s important to make a trip plan and stick to it. He is very grateful to his rescuers: “I just want to say thank you, and to anyone elsewhere who’s skiing, maybe think twice before you want to duck under a rope.”

Adventure Smarthas some great tips and ahandy app on how to plan your outdoor trip. Download it today and remember these points:

  • If you leave the ski area, make sure you are properly equipped with avalanche equipment, extra food and water, warm clothing and a first aid kit.
  • Know where you are leaving from and how you plan to return home. 
  • Tell someone your plan, with an estimate of your arrival time back home.
  • Check the weather. If there is an impending storm, don’t go.
  • Always ski with a buddy, particularly outside the resort. 

If you do get lost, follow the STOP steps – Stop, Think, Observe, Plan – then act. Remember:

  • Stay where you are. Moving makes it hard for searchers to find you.
  • Build a fire to stay warm, if you can.
  • Build or seek a shelter. Snow caves work well and even a small tarp can make an effective shelter in a pinch. Use branches to keep your body off the ground.
  • Use a signalling device – a whistle, smoke from a fire, or a mirror work well.
  • Eat your food and drink sparingly. It may have to last a while.

Everyone has something to learn regarding backcountry safety. Even a stalled car during a storm can present challenges you need to be equipped for. All are welcome to participate in Backcountry Awareness Day. Along with great information and skills training, there will be prizes for all participants. 

Event: Backcountry Awareness Day

Date:9:00-3:00, Saturday, February 8, 2020

Location:Red Mountain Resort – base area.

Backcountry Awareness Day

Saturday, February 8, 2020

9:00 AM – 3:00 PM





Transceiver search (transceiver park under Silverlode chair)


Relay race sign-in (teams of 4) – ongoing until 1:30 pm


First Aid demonstration


How to light a fire on the snow 


Build a quinzhee (snow shelter)


Probe practice


Snowpack analysis


Join us for lunch!  hot chocolate, hot dogs/veggie dogs, veggie trays


Backcountry Safety talk – Mark Gayowski and RSAR 


Backcountry Safety talk – Mark Gayowski and RSAR 


How to light a fire on the snow / Probe practice


Build a quinzhee (snow shelter)/ Snowpack analysis


Relay race





Join us for great learning, hot chocolate, snacks and great prizes!

The picture below is the full-size version, showing more of the challenge of the terrain searchers traversed while looking for Mark Gayowski:

Categories: EducationGeneral

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