While wilderness skiing, skiers and snowboarders may use a variety of transportation methods such as helicopters, snowcats, and snowmobiles. Users should be familiar with the use of these transportation methods for their own safety and the safety of others. Guides, drivers and pilots will provide safety briefings that inform users about the process for loading, skiing, riding, and unloading. Pay attention and obey these briefings.
If you are unfamiliar with helicopters, snowcats, or snowmobiles, or have questions, please ask your guide for assistance and direction.
Additional Safety Tips
In addition to the Wilderness Skiing and Snowboarding Responsibility Code, here are some additional tips to keep you safe and to help you enjoy your day on the slopes:
- Plan ahead for variations in weather. Dress appropriately and have properly tuned gear. Warmth and visibility are key safety components.
- UV rays are reflected from the snow surface. Always wear sunscreen and goggles or sunglasses, even on cloudy days.
- Cold temperatures increase the likelihood of frostbite. Dress warm, bring extra layers and keep an eye on exposed skin. Go inside immediately if skin begins to turn white.
- Take note of the conditions. When the snow surface is hard and fast, it is easy to ski/snowboard at high speed, increasing the risk for serious injury if you fall and slide. Be aware of changing snow surface conditions.
- A tree well is the space around a tree under its branches that does not get the same amount of snow as the surrounding open space. This creates a void or area of loose snow below the branches and around the tree trunk that is dangerous to skiers and snowboarders.
- If someone lands in a tree well, it is often headfirst, which can leave them injured or unconscious, or they may suffocate.
- When a victim falls into a tree well, their head and arms will likely be heading down into the hole and their skis or snowboard will be above them. Loose snow will start to fall in around the victim as they move, packing them in against the tree. They will be upside down in the tree well.
- The biggest threat from falling in tree wells is suffocation from the snow packing in around the victim. Another threat can be from hitting the tree and getting injured.
- If you fall into a tree well, don’t panic. Rapid movement and struggling will worsen the situation. It is important to stay still and save energy. You are not likely to get yourself out and will require assistance from others.
- Grab whatever part of the tree you can or hug the tree trunk. Grab tree branches or other parts of the tree to try to stabilize yourself and stop yourself from falling deeper. Hold on tight. Look for air pockets to push your head into. Breathe. Be aware that every movement, however slight, will cause more snow to pack in around you. Do not shake the tree. Create air holes and wait for rescue.
- To prevent falling into tree wells, ski well clear of trees when skiing deep powder. Falling into a tree well is preventable simply by staying away from trees in deep powder.
- To be rescued quickly, ski and snowboard close to, but beside a buddy. A buddy who is skiing below you on the slope may not know that you fell into a tree well and will have difficulty getting uphill to find and rescue you.
- Be particularly cautious when skiing and snowboarding in the trees. Tree wells are a real risk.
- If your ski buddy falls into a tree well, you must respond as quickly as possible to rescue them.
- Call out to other skiers in your group to notify them. If you have a whistle, blow it to attract attention.
- Go to the tree well location. Three rescuers are an ideal number of rescuers, so if you are by yourself you may only be able to stabilize the situation until other help arrives.
- In some simple situations, you may be able to pull the skier out of the tree well; in other situations, they will be too far down for this to be successful. Grasp the bottom hem of the victim’s jacket and carefully pull the victim. At the very least, hold the skier from sliding further into the tree well.
- In some cases, a receiving platform or trench may need to be dug below the victim to be able to pull them out of the tree well. Successful tree well rescue is a combination of digging, platform preparation, and pulling.
- Ensure the skier’s airway is clear of snow and that there is an air pocket around their head for them to breathe. Don’t shake the tree or push additional snow into the tree well.
- If the skier is conscious, reassure them and tell them to remain still and calm.
- Remove ski or snowboard equipment from the victim if it is safe to do so.
- When the victim is out of the tree well, assess their condition and apply first aid as required.
- See more on tree well safety at www.deepsnowsafety.organd the Tree Well Rescue Best Practices bulletin (below).
Take an avalanche course. Learn more about avalanches through Avalanche Canada at https://www.avalanche.ca/.
Don't Over Do it
Be aware of fatigue; many visitors are on vacation and might not be conditioned to ski or snowboard long days. Warm up in the morning and stretch it out, then tone it down in the afternoon. Stay hydrated and carry a snack with you to keep you fuelled.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
- Be mindful of where you stop on the slope, for your safety and the safety of other skiers and snowboarders. When resting, move over to the side of the run. Never stop under a roller, jump, cat track, or on a blind corner, as skiers uphill from you will not be able to see you.
- When skiing and snowboarding, be aware of other skiers and snowboarders. Look uphill before you commence downhill, and yield to other skiers and snowboarders.
- If in doubt, ask your guide.