British Columbia

B.C. search and rescue teams on track for another record-setting winter

Winter is doing little to cool down a record-setting pace of outdoor search and rescues in the province.

Call-outs up 48% over last year, B.C. Search and Rescue Association says

A group of backcountry skiers make their way toward Mount McArthur in B.C.'s Yoho National Park. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

Winter is doing little to cool down a record-setting pace of outdoor search and rescues in the province.

The B.C. Search and Rescue Association reports call-outs so far this season have increased 48 per cent compared to the same time last year.  

Crews responded to 195 incidents in December and January of last year, compared to 288 this winter.

With milder weather and the pandemic pushing more people into the backcountry, 2020 was the busiest search and rescue year in B.C. SAR history, according to South Columbia Search and Rescue Manager Mike Hudson. 

"Super busy, different calls, different types, from hikers to skiers to sledders to boaters," Hudson said. 

He said his Kootenay SAR team responded to 10 emergencies in January alone.

A view of Kootenay Lake near Kaslo, B.C. Search and rescue crews says everyone should have a trip plan and carry essentials, like extra clothing and food when heading out on the water. (Adrian Nieoczym/Canadian Press)

"You know COVID is taking its toll on people, and people need to get out and about," he said, adding that the Kootenay team is encountering both experienced and novice backcountry explorers.

While responses are up, Hudson says people do appear to be more aware and prepared than in the past.

"I want to give credit to Adventure Smart. They're a fantastic resource for anybody wanting to learn trip planning, what  essential items to take and how to leave an appropriate plan." 

Hudson says teams are now bracing for the late winter and early spring avalanche season. The pace of search and rescue responses is also creating demand for new volunteers across the province. 

"Teams are recruiting right now so if anyone is interested in joining a search and rescue team, check out your local team." 

Some 2,500 unpaid professionals are on call with 79 search and rescue groups in B.C.


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