With the 2020/2021 season about to kick off, Fernie Alpine Resort (FAR) ski patrollers urge snow enthusiasts to exercise caution when heading out onto the slopes, in particular while venturing into the backcountry and slackcountry this upcoming winter.
According to Tyler Steen, patrol director at FAR, early season riders are advised to ride slowly and carefully for the first few runs, at least until surroundings become familiar.
“Your ski legs are not in mid-season condition, and neither is our terrain,” said Steen.
“Early season hazards exist. The terrain looks definitely different than it did in the last run you did in March. So we tell people to run at 40 per cent of their normal speed to get a feel for what the resort is like – all the drainages, ditches, and snow depth.”
For those heading into the backcountry and slackcountry, Steen mentioned that a concern for patrollers is ensuring people respect the on-resort closures that affect access points to the backcountry.
“The big one is respecting the closures that are maybe going to impede you from getting to that access point – so never assume that those access points are open,” said Steen, who recommends checking run status online before heading out.
Those entering the backcountry are also urged to check their transceivers at the beacon checkers on both sides of the resort, however according to Steen the checkers only inform riders if their beacons are on, not how well they work.
Anyone looking to practice using backcountry equipment may do so for free at FAR’s Beacon Basin transceiver site, located off the Timber Chair on Heartland.
According to Steen, avalanche safety courses are another a great way to learn about avalanche equipment, hazards, and terrain assessment.
“We’ll always recommend someone take any (avalanche safety) courses – you can’t take enough of them,” added Steen.
“We are always advocates for professional development even for recreational users.”
With many locations and companies offering avalanche safety courses, Steen recommends contacting the Canadian Avalanche Association to find out who is offering courses and where.
Steen furthered that while FAR patrollers don’t forecast for the backcountry, he advises anyone heading out to check Avalanche Canada’s forecast and condition reports prior to departure.
“That’s the classic know-before-you-go type thing,” added Steen, whose advice is not to replace official avalance training.
“It’s all about always going with a buddy, the standard stuff, rescue equipment, know how to use it, have an idea of where you’re going.”
Steen added that in the event of an emergency in the backcountry or slackcountry, riders are to call the RCMP.
“I always recommend that if you’re in an accident, phone 9-1-1 if you can’t think of any other number – tell them where you are, then (other parties) get involved.”