B.C.’s great outdoors has much to offer during the winter months, but that beauty can have a darker side. Make sure you get the necessary safety gear and skills, and practice what you learn.

Avalanche Safety

Before you hit that fresh powder, Avalanche Canada wants you to know a few things:

  • Get the gear: A transceiver, shovel and probe could save your life
  • Get the training: Take an avalanche skills training (AST) course. All that gear is useless unless you know how to use it
  • Know before you go: Check avalanche forecast bulletins
  • File a flight plan: Tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back

Backcountry Safety

AdventureSmart has three key tips to help you survive outside:

  • Take the essentials with you… and know how to use them
  • Write a trip plan and leave it with a responsible friend or family member
  • Obtain the survival training, skills and knowledge you need before heading out

Parks Canada’s Mountain Safety Program has great preparedness and safety information if you’re planning to explore B.C.’s stunning national parks this winter.

Staying Warm

Avoid hypothermia by remembering the acronym COLD:

  • Cover: Wear a scarf, hat or toque, mittens or gloves and even a balaclava if necessary
  • Overexertion: Avoid activities that will make you sweat a lot. The combination of wet clothing and cold weather can cause you to lose body heat more quickly
  • Layers: Wear loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing. Wool or silk are great choices. Outer clothing made of tightly woven, water-repellent material is best for wind protection
  • Dry: Get out of wet clothing as soon as possible. Be especially careful to keep your hands and feet dry as it’s easy for snow to get into mittens and boots

You should also know the signs of hypothermia. They include constant shivering, confusion, poor decision making (such as trying to remove warm clothes), drowsiness and shallow breathing. Frostbite is another concern in cold weather. Signs of frostbite include hands, feet or face turning red, purple then black. More information is available from the Canadian Red Cross.

Weather Awareness

When planning a trip it’s important to start monitoring conditions well before you leave. Here’s how to obtain your pre-trip weather information and when to check in for changes:

  • Four to seven days prior to departure: Call the weather experts with Environment Canada’s Pacific Storm Prediction Centre at 1-900-565-555 or 1-888-292-2222. For a small fee, you can consult directly with a meteorologist. Explain where you’re going and at what elevations you’ll be traveling. If the forecast is stormy, think about alternate plans, postponing or cancelling altogether
  • Three days prior to departure: Check for Special Weather Statements. These are the least urgent alerts issued by Environment Canada and are intended to advise of unusual, inconvenient or potentially hazardous conditions over the longer term (beyond 24 hours)
  • 24 hours prior to departure: Check for Weather Warnings. These are urgent advisories that severe weather is either occurring or will occur. Even if there are no warnings, it’s a good idea to call the Pacific Storm Prediction Centre again to reiterate the specifics of your trip and amend your plans if necessary