Backcountry like a boss with spring safety tips from Bay of Islands SAR

Backcountry like a boss with spring safety tips from Bay of Islands SAR

As the snow goes and the rain falls, a last burst of backcountry adventure is on many people's minds, but the changing seasons can make for even more hazardous conditions, warns one search and rescue co-ordinator. 

"The danger now is what's opening up beneath the snow, water coming through," says Garry Dalrymple, an avalanche safety training co-ordinator with the Bay of Islands Volunteer Search and Rescue.

"Maybe that river wasn't even there last year, or pocket of water, that can create a soft spot."

'Don't really trust the trails'

Dalrymple spends a fair bit of time in the backcountry and said the risks are different for snowmobilers versus skiers as spring starts.

"The big thing for snowmobilers is don't really trust the trails," he told CBC Radio's Corner Brook Morning Show. "Take your time on your first pass, make sure everything is as safe as you think it is."

Dalrymple said the risk of an avalanche has "settled down" after a bit of wild winter that saw fluctuating temperatures. 

"Not to say that it's not possible; absolutely it's possible," he said.

Backcountry buddy system

Dalrymple said in addition to slowing down, people can reduce the risks by not going it alone.

"Have a bit of a plan and just have each other's back," he said. 

Social media is also a valuable tool for navigating the unfamiliar, according to Dalrymple.

"There are a lot of groups online [where] people will post all the pictures of all their trips. Certainly, if they come across any hazards, they generally seem to put that up" he said. 

"You know, when we go skiing, we ask around and say, 'Has anyone gone there in the last couple of days or in the last week or two? Let us know what you saw.'"

But even armed with other people's accounts and a penchant for slower speeds, Dalrymple warned the backcountry is unpredictable and untamed — precisely why people seek it out. 

"You could have went out on a ride yesterday, you could take the same trail again today or tomorrow and you're going to have a different experience."