Safety on the mountain – Metro US

Safety on the mountain

Photo courtesy of Dave Norona

Dave Norona and Simon Beller dig a snow pit and take an up-close look at the different snow layers within the snow pack for safe travels in the Sea 2 Sky backcountry.

The Coastal Mountains in our own backyard are one of the most amazing places on earth for any wintertime adventure. The incredible terrain, spectacular views and huge amounts of snow create the perfect place for us to play. Unfortunately this epic playground comes at a price.

More and more people are heading off into the mountains to snowshoe, ski, and snowmobile — away from the crowds. Those beautiful off-piste slopes may look great for skiing, boarding, or snowshoeing, however, they can also kill you very fast if you’re not aware of your surroundings, have the right training and carry the right gear. Below I will show you how to find the right training and gear to make your time off-piste safe.

No one should be in the backcountry, doing any sport, until they have taken at the very least a proper Avalanche Level 1 Skills Course. This is a two-day course that is taught by avalanche professionals on how to use equipment and make calculated decisions. You can join in on an existing course or hire a guide with your friends. Check out the online course through the Canadian Avalanche Center (avalanche.ca) and then hire an ACMG guide at acmgguides.com.

When looking at equipment be sure to choose gear that is easy to use, simple to operate, and is strong and efficient. There is a lot of lightweight equipment out there that is great, but remember that lightweight gear can often be weaker and less efficient; two things you don’t want when you have to save someone’s life or your own.

You will first need an avalanche transceiver to aid in finding someone if they get caught in an avalanche. All beacons on the market today work great, however, go with a model that is easy to use and is simple. I have found the BCA Tracker to be one of the best on the market with its simple design, easy-to-use buttons and excellent price tag. The number one thing to do when you get your beacon is to practise, practise and practise with it.

A probe is what you will need to use to pinpoint a buried person after you have located them with your beacon. Again, there are many different brands and materials. Choose a probe that is 240 centimetres or greater, has measurements or colour codes for depth, and is simple and easy to set up.

Your shovel is one of the most important pieces as it is going to help you remove the hard icy snow that has set up over the buried victim. Trust me, this is not the time to have a wimpy plastic, short handled or small bladed shovel. Choose a shovel that is aluminum, has a sharp front to bash through ice and has a wide scoop to grab a lot of snow.

Finally you will need a pack to hold all your essentials, plus extra food, clothing and a first-aid kit. Make sure you buy the best equipment for your outings, as it will last longer and provide you with the ultimate safety out in the mountains.

dave norona


Dave has travelled the world to challenge some of its toughest races. He has raced in over 400 events throughout his career, and hopes his passion will excite you to get involved in your own wild adventures. Visit www.davenorona.com for more info.

gear guide

G3 Speed Probe 320cm

Description: This extra long probe is lightweight and is coloured alternating anodized silver and gold for easy depth measurement, and a foolproof tension mechanism. The specially coated stainless cable and new ferrules allow faster assembly.

Price: $85

Where to find it: www.genuineguidegear.com

Dakine Heli-Pro 20L Pack

Description: The Heli-Pro is the perfect pack to carry all your essential winter gear with you for any day trip. Dedicated spots for backcountry gear, ski/snowboard carry straps, and insulated hydro sleeve to keep it from freezing.

Price: $110

Where to find it: www.dakine.com

BCA Tracker DTS Beacon

Description: The Tracker is one of the best and most popular beacons on the market today. Its ease of use and simple design allow you to get to know it fast, which makes all the difference out in the backcountry.

Price: $315

Where to find it: www.backcountryaccess.com

Black Diamond AvaLung 2

Description: In case of burial the AvaLung 2 allows you to breath under the snow while minimizing CO2 contamination. Visit www.avalung.comfor more information.

Price: $161

Where to find it: www.blackdiamondequipment.com

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