Fernie Search and Rescue (SAR) responded to a total of 30 call-outs in 2020 – a number that is statistically in line with what they face in a typical year.
“In terms of volume, it’s been a pretty standard year so far, we normally do between 30 to 40 rescues a year, and it seems like this year will be pretty comparable,” said Piney.
“In terms of the mix of responses that we’ve had, also reasonably typical – the winter months have had injured sledders, lost sledders, injured skiers, avalanche stuff, and then the summer was heavy on mountain bikers and hikers.”
Overall, five call outs were snowmobile related, and another five were mountain bike related.
SAR technicians also responded to three backcountry skiing incidents, three water related summer incidents, and three summer hiking situations.
Two call outs were walk-always, two were vehicle related, one was a hunter, and one had to do with a missing airplane, among a few others.
Piney did note that a number of the mountain biking injuries were more serious than normal, however mentioned that backcountry communication is improving, notably in the sledding community with lots of InReach and SPOT use, and that skiers also seem to be well prepared for companion rescue on the whole.
Though Fernie SAR maintained their ongoing training, altering it to be as safe as possible, Piney mentioned that the pandemic did have an effect on rescues.
With rescues modified, Piney stressed the importance of honesty in their verbal COVID questionnaires so that rescue technicians know what level of PPE to use.
“We could knock our operational capacity down very quickly if we are exposed to individuals who are sick and don’t make us aware of that,” said Piney, further urging people to honour non-essential travel restrictions.
According to Piney, COVID also affected the demographic of rescues.
“We found a lot of people out there that were maybe not traditionally out there – the whole COVID thing has pushed people to find their social distancing in the backcountry and that means there’s more people out there, and with more people out there there is more chance of things happening,” said Piney.
Piney added that SAR is concerned with the aforementioned inexperience trickling into the winter, as it is far less-forgiving season.