It looks like the drought is over! In the Kootenay Boundary/Purcell forecast zone we live in, snow has been dumping like a Christmas gift from above, bringing much excitement for many snowmobilers, skiers and other back country users. Several BC riding areas are experiencing the same types of conditions. Heavy snowfalls, weak layers underneath causing very unstable condition. With fresh powder excitement. visions of epic face shots, and deep powder turns fill our every thought. With excitement comes the potential for human error.
Pow Stoke, is a human condition where the excitement of fresh powder overrides one’s ability to make safe, wise choices. Perhaps you’ve been experiencing drought like conditions, as we’ve been seeing in the Kootenay Boundary/Purcell forecast zone. Maybe you have taken time off from work, where you have made specific plans for heading out with your buddies come hell or high water. I’ve seen many customers in our Kootenay Speed Shop this week, excited to head out on their maiden voyage on their brand new machine. Pow stoke can hit mid ride, when individuals find themselves in an unexpected holy grail of a freshie zone. Excitement is a good thing, but not at the expense of proper decision making.
Step 1. Admit that you have a problem. We all could fall prey to pow stoke, no matter our avalanche education, or preparedness. It hits hard and fast usually undetected. Keep your Brain on when enjoying the winter back country.
Step 3. Make a plan A with your group, a plan b and even a plan c. Discuss the conditions and potential hazards ensuring everyone is on the same page. Here’s a handy trip planning check list which is found on Avalanche Canada’s website under resources. Trip Planning Checklist
Step 4. Prepare for your ride, ensuring you have all your gear packed, fluids topped up, batteries charged up for your communication and gps devices the night before allowing you a peaceful start to your ride day the next morning. Essential Gear
Step 5. Head out for the day! At the trail head, do a transceiver check to make sure everyone is not only wearing their gear but that it is fully functional. Designate a lead and a tail, with the tail making sure the group stays together, and no one is left behind. Here is an awesome video on transceivers and how to perform a transceiver check at the trail head from our friends at Backcountry Access.
Step 6. The rule of one.. One person at a time on a slope, and one person at a time crossing a potential avalanche path. This is especially important if your riding buddy is stuck on a hill. Give them time, and watch them from a safe distance out of the slide path, but avoid an intervention which could trigger an avalanche on top of your stuck buddy.
Step 7. Observe the snow pack around you making note of changing conditions in some of the micro zones you ride. Take pictures of the snow pack and conditions which you will use for your MIN report. Be prepared to alter your route if you notice unstable conditions while you are out enjoying the day.
Step 8. Keep the lines of communication open throughout your day, discussing snow pack and potential ride routes. If you notice unsafe behavior within your group or those from another group use your words. Sure, they may call you the safety police or fun police, mock, laugh, and dismiss your advice (I’ve been there many times before), but there is always a chance you could prevent a fatality. It’s worth it to use your words.
Step 9. Head out back to staging with plenty of daylight at your disposal. The end of day mishaps that can occur are much easier to manage in daylight.
Step 10. When you arrive home, while information is fresh in your mind, create a min report. The Mountain Information Network is easy to use as there are some quick report features that make it user friendly for all. Here is a link to get you started. Mountain Information Network (MIN)
Chillax and unwind with your friends and loved ones who are thankful you’ve returned home from another wonderful day out in the mountainous back country! Have a great and safe season everyone! Much love!