BC Search and Rescue Team Tackles Snowmobiling Shortcomings

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It’s time for search and rescue teams to take a serious look at snowmobile rescue.

Relying on traditional search and rescue teams – whose members are not always well versed in snowmobiling – is no longer cutting it. That’s why British Columbia’s Robson Valley Search and Rescue Team is looking to incorporate experienced sledders to help develop a more well-rounded team.

As resort populations swell and lift lines become insufferably long, it seems that more and more people are discovering the joys of ripping a sled through the backcountry in search of fresh powder. But as with most winter sports, there’s a risk associated with snowmobiling: the Canadian Institute for Health Information reports 1,100-1,200 snowmobiling-related hospitalizations every year.

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Many of those involved in snowmobiling accidents require the help of local Search and Rescue Teams, but sledding is a skill that not all SAR members have. That means that snowmobiling rescues can take longer and put SAR members at risk.

Robson Valley Search and Rescue knows that there are plenty of experienced snowmobilers in the community who have the talent to help with SAR rescues – they just don’t necessarily want to commit to the 75 hours of training required to join the SAR team. They have a hunch that the situation is similar in other sledding communities across BC.

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The solution: developing a team of Mountain Snowmobile Responders. Mountain Snowmobile Responders will be required to take a free training session that involves 3-4 hours in the classroom and 3-4 hours on the mountain. These responders will work with – not in place of — the existing SAR team.

The strategy has worked well for mountain rescue teams, who relied on the help of experienced mountaineers to assist with rescues. Robson Valley Search and Rescue is testing the concept out for the first time this season – if it is successful, hopefully we’ll see more SAR teams across the province borrow the idea.

If you live in the Robson Valley area and know your way around a sled, contact Dale Mason at [email protected] or 250-569-7036. You should have your Avalanche Skills Training (level 1), all the required gear (including avalanche rescue equipment), and sound knowledge of the backcountry area.

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