By Marc Piche
One of the most valuable aspects of our annual winter guides training is the review of incidents that occurred in the field the previous year. Most of these case studies are avalanche-related and are presented by one of the guides from the area involved. The goal is to offer an opportunity to all CMH guides to learn from the experience of those who were there, and also to determine if any operational changes need to be made to either prevent or reduce the chance of a similar occurrence in the future.
In the fall of 2008 during guides training, we reviewed an incident where a guest was caught in a very small avalanche but buried very deeply in a wind scoop near a boulder. Although the buried person was successfully dug out without serious injury, both the guides and guests involved in the rescue felt strongly that it would have been beneficial to have more shovels on hand immediately.
It’s not the first time we’ve discussed this at CMH, but this incident prompted our decision to have all guests carry a shovel and probe in a small pack while heli-skiing and heli-boarding starting this coming season.
Last winter we tested several different brands of packs, shovels and probes in an effort to come up with a package that is as low profile, easy-to-use, and lightweight as possible. We worked with Arc’Teryx, who custom-designed our new pack to fit the probe and shovel we chose from Black Diamond. As you can see from the photo above, the sleek design does not impede a skier or riders ability.
We were encouraged by the positive response of all guests who tested the new packs last year. We see this as an important step toward being even better prepared in case of a mishap.
While out skiing, all guests will still be expected to take turns carrying a two-way radio, and to ski at the rear or middle of the group while doing so. As we have stated many times at CMH, overall safety is the responsibility of every skier.
For those skiers and riders who bring your own radios, please contact our Operations Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you need information about programming them with the correct frequencies and tones.