New avalanche training area now open

The Mountain Rescue Society donates a free-to-use rescue training basin and equipment
The Sun Peaks beacon basin. Photo from Sun Peaks Mountain Rescue Society on Facebook.

Sun Peaks Mountain Rescue Society (SPMRS) has created and donated an avalanche training area for Sun Peaks Resort LPP to allow community members and visitors to practice their avalanche rescue skills before heading out into the backcountry.

The new training beacon basin is located at the top of the Sunburst chairlift and is free to use. Chris Mark, president of SPMRS, said this resource is important because there is a decent amount of backcountry accessed off the top of the resort.

“There’s out of bounds that people access quite regularly,” said Mark. “And this year in particular, the avalanche conditions are really, really bad. So it’s nice to practice your skills and keep them up to date.”

The training allows backcountry participants to practice using a transceiver to find buried beacons. Once located, they can strike them with a probe and dig them out. There are eight buried beacons around the area, but which beacons are turned on changes each day so the course is always different.

“The ski patrol is all proficient in training, so just feel free to ask ski patrol for any advice or tips on how to use it,” said Mark.

Mark said SPMRS members identified an avalanche training beacon basin as a need for Sun Peaks a couple of years ago, and the society is happy to now have it in place and ready to use.

“Avalanche danger is becoming more of an inherent risk with backcountry skiing,” said Mark. “With COVID as well, more and more people are venturing out into the backcountry, so it presents an interesting mix of potential dangers.”

Mark said SPMRS hopes the area and equipment gets used a lot, by both new and experienced backcountry enthusiasts. He added that the window of time to locate and rescue someone is only about 15 minutes, so it is important to keep practicing those skills.

“Often we take for granted that we haven’t done that sort of training for a while,” said Mark. “It’s such a playground out in the backcountry and you’re having such fun, but you forget how serious it is.”

To get more people involved, SPMRS will also be running competitions throughout the winter and will be giving out prizes for whoever can undig beacons the quickest. Keep an eye on SPMRS’s Facebook page for further updates.

Anyone who would like to donate to SPMRS can do so by scanning the QR code located at the basin. 

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