Mountain Safety 101
Adventuring in the mountains can be a thrilling and magical experience. Surrounded by the outdoors, connect with nature, and spend quality time with good people. However, as magical as the mountains are, it’s important to remember that they can be unpredictable.
Therefore, preparing yourself before heading out in the mountains is paramount from uncontrollable weather patterns, ranging temperatures, and unstable snow conditions. Read on to find out how to play safely outdoors.
Before leaving the comfort of your home or hotel room, don’t forget to check the current weather conditions. By checking the forecast, you can gauge the average temperatures on the mountain and wind speeds, allowing you to prepare for the day properly. For the most accurate local weather forecast, visit WhistlerPeak.Com. It provides up-to-date temperatures in different zones of the mountains, clocked wind speeds, mountain webcams, lift status, grooming reports, new snow reports, and you can also easily book yourself a lunch reservation. For a 7-day forecast, visit Snow Forecast to help plan your week of skiing/riding. Snow forecast pulls the weather forecasts from different weather networks to develop a more accurate trend.
If you’re planning to head into the Backcountry, it’s essential to check the Avalanche bulletin before planning your outing. Avalanche Canada offers accurate and current avalanche reports for BC and Alberta. Pick your region for avalanche danger ratings, problems, probabilities of an avalanche on what type of slope, and details pulled from ACMG Guides reports in the area. Once you better understand the conditions, it’s time to decide your route and pack the appropriate gear.
Equipment & Safety Gear:
Now that you have checked the weather, it’s time to get ready. Proper layering can either make or break your day of fun. Being too cold can end your day early, and overheating can cause discomfort and goggle fogging. Merino wool base layers are a great place to start; they regulate body temperature and resist odours. For insulation, try a down puffy or synthetic jacket, depending on the temperatures on the hill. Finally, top it off with a Gore-tex shell to keep you safe from the elements.
When skiing or snowboarding, it’s recommended to wear a helmet at all times. Fresh powder can make soft landings; however, rocks and icy groomers can make hard opticals. It’s best to protect your noggin as best you can. MIPS is the leading technology in concussion prevention; stop by any Can-Ski to find the best option for you. A good pair of goggles can make the most significant difference in your mountain experience. Seeing through the fog or whiteout can add confidence when starting your descent. After your day of skiing, don’t forget to leave your goggles in a warm, dry spot to avoid fogging the following day. These few tiny pieces of good equipment can make the difference to having a successful day in the mountains.
Occasionally Whistler experiences an Arctic cold front; the Village can average minus 20. While on the mountain, temperatures can range from minus 20 to minus 40 with a windchill. With these conditions, it’s imperative to wear many layers and take many coffee breaks to avoid getting frostbite. If you’re planning on braving the coldest conditions, you may want to invest in heated socks, liners, gloves or pack your hot pockets. Any local boot fitting shop will be able to customize your boots to keep your toes warm all day long.
Hiring a guide:
If this is your first time to Whistler, or you’re looking to improve your technique, hiring an instructor for the day might help make the most of your day on the hill. Whether you’re a beginner skier/riding or an expert, Whistler Blackcomb’s Ski School has a program for you. Take a beginner or intermediate lesson to build your skills and grow confidence on the groomers.
Book a clinic or guide with Extremely Canadian for any advanced or expert skiers/riders looking to find the goods and conquer some of Whistler’s steeper runs. Their guides will take you around to Whistler and Blackcomb’s hidden powder gems while giving you tips and tactics to improve your skiing/riding ability. Hiring a guide to show you around the mountain and help with your technique will ease the mind and make for a more relaxing experience.
The natural progression of an experienced skier or rider is to head into the backcountry. Whistler Blackcomb has world-class, easy excess backcountry terrain, along with unique overnight traverses. However, you mustn’t go unprepared or uneducated; bring a map, and download FatMap. If you are unfamiliar with the area and recent weather systems, hiring an ACMG (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides) will save you the trouble of planning a safe excursion. Extremely Canadian and Altus Mountian Guides offer daily guided tours (dependent on availability). Rely on their expertise to navigate the dangerous avalanche terrain, and show you the best snow or bag a famous West-coast peak.
If you’re interested in growing your knowledge in the Backcountry, take an Avalanche Skills Course 1. This course will increase your understanding of weather systems, the types of avalanches, unstable snow layers, and companion rescue skills. Taking an AST course is a great place to start if you’re interested in pursuing adventures in the backcountry.
In case of Emergency:
The mountains can be unpredictable, and planning ahead is essential. Knowing who to call in case of an emergency is step one. If you’re skiing in bounds and on the resort, your first call should be Mountain Patrol. Once you arrive in town and plan on skiing on the resort, save 604-935-5555 into your phone. Dispatch will assess your injuries over the phone, then patrols/doctors will promptly arrive to help with any injury. If in the backcountry, you should assume you will not have service. Ensure that someone in the group has a freshly charged Inreach or GPS tool for an emergency.
Your inreach will contact 911 and send your coordinates to Search and Rescue for a heli evac. If you manage to get service in the backcountry, you must contact 911 first to dispatch emergency services. Inreaches are a fantastic piece of technology that has helped save many lives; it’s a tool you always want to carry and hope never to use.
Everyone should enjoy the vast outdoors and experience all the wonders it offers, but we all must learn to play safely in the mountains for ourselves and others, and this article is just a start. You can’t control every scenario in the outdoors, so it’s up to you to manage the risks. With the Sea to Sky’s endless mountain ranges, adventure is around every corner; it’s time for you to take advantage!