We don’t have to look far in the news to read about the increasing number of incidents occurring in off-piste terrain, not only here in Canada, but worldwide. Off-piste, by the way, means beyond groomed runs; the trees, the powder stashes, the hidden gems that sometimes exist just meters away from an in-bound trail or kilometres out in the backcountry.
Over the past few years, the ski industry as a whole, including film makers, magazines and gear manufacturers, have romanticized and promoted the lure of fresh lines and untracked powder. Just 10 years ago there were only a handful of brands producing backcountry gear. These days every major manufacturer is selling powder skis, all terrain bindings and touring boots. Great news for the industry, but I fear this movement is encouraging unprepared individuals into potentially dangerous terrain without proper training.
On a positive note, organizations like Avalanche Canada, the CSGI (Canadian Ski Guides Institute) as well as our own Sun Peaks Resort have developed and delivered camps and courses specifically designed to educate aspiring off-piste and backcountry enthusiasts.
In Sun Peaks’ All Mountain Skills Camps, our guests are able to safely explore and learn in our off-piste terrain with a Canadian Ski Guide. Our focus is on promoting safety and awareness of mountain hazards, good decision-making and preparedness in terms of equipment and attitude.
Students are introduced to the fundamentals of terrain assessment, hazard analysis, field observations, overnight survival, as well as companion rescue with transceiver, probe and shovel techniques. As the camp coordinator, I have taken the culmination of my guides training, knowledge and experience and developed a two day course focused on the key fundamental skills required for safe off-piste skiing. In no way do we suggest the camp is a substitute for Avalanche Skills Training, however I do hope that it serves as a catalyst to encourage further education. I’m confident you will leave with a whole new understanding of mountain hazards and how to avoid them.