Warm year promises heavy snowfall and dangerous weather
By Greg Waldock, Staff Writer
On November 26, a man was killed on Blackcomb Peak after crashing while snowboarding down the slope. He suffocated in the snow, and was found hours later by search and rescue. The death comes after one of Whistler-Blackcomb’s heaviest snowfalls in recent years, and though this makes the resort a much more tempting target for snowboarders, it should also be an opportunity to look at the risks and safety measures for riding the slopes.
One of the best things you can do when going up the mountain is bringing company. It’s not just for making the trip more fun. Having a buddy while snowboarding is like having a spotter in the weight room—it’s for safety and backup if things go wrong. Let people in your group know which slope you plan on going down, and make sure to go down in pairs. Having a shoulder to lean on makes all the difference when you have a twisted ankle, and if something goes really wrong, it’ll give search and rescue a starting point.
Be sure to check any warnings. Weather and environmental hazards are killers. Snowboarders and skiers are regularly injured at the bottoms of cliffs marked with “Hazardous Fall Ahead” signs. Keeping note of weather patterns when planning your trip to the slopes can make the whole thing much safer and more enjoyable. Since most mountains around Vancouver have very stable and predictable weather, this should be very easy—any anomalies will be widely reported. Just keep an eye out and plan the days’ rides around any bad winds or good snowfalls.
What you wear can change the whole snowboarding experience. If you don’t want to spring for the expensive equipment, just go for the essentials. Gloves, boots, and thick socks are critical for keeping the extremities warm. Nothing kills a holiday like frostbite. Lined helmets, earmuffs, and heavy parkas are also easy to find. A good parka can easily be the difference between life and death if you get stuck on the mountainside. Watch the temperature, always dress accordingly, and keep everything you have dry for as long as you can. Most regular snowboarders will swear by a good pair of long-johns.
Despite being incredibly safe, the snowboarding and skiing mountains around Vancouver can—and do—kill people. Be aware of your surroundings, don’t play chicken with warning signs in the snow, watch the weather alerts, and wrap up appropriately. It’s pretty easy to have a good time on the mountains as long as you remember to stay safe.