Calgary

Heading into the mountains this weekend? Be prepared and know the risks, Parks Canada reminds backcountry user

With a lot of snow and a lot of people hitting mountain trails and slopes, Parks Canada rescue specialists are putting out an early in the season safety reminder.

'The risks for being unprepared or uninformed in the winter have a lot more severe consequences'

Parks Canada Visitor Safety Manager Brian Webster says its important to make sure pleasure trips don't result in rescue missions. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

With a lot of snow and a lot of people hitting mountain trails and slopes, Parks Canada rescue specialists are putting out an early in the season safety reminder.

Parks says lots of visitors took in the mountains last summer who had limited outdoor experience. That led to an uptick in calls for help.

While officials are glad to see so many people enjoying the wilderness, they want to make sure pleasure trips don't result in rescue missions.

Banff visitor safety manager Brian Webster says his crews are already seeing busy trailheads with hikers, snowshoers and cross-country skiers.

They've also responded to a few assistance calls from people who underestimated factors like the weather, the terrain and even trip distance.

"People that aren't really expecting to get into dangerous terrain, but because they might not have the knowledge or they're not totally prepared, they can get into a bit of a mishap," he said.

Webster warns the area gets dark fast, the weather changes quickly, cellphone coverage can be limited and that avalanche areas should be identified and avoided. Avalanche safety training is a must for those travelling in terrain at risk of slides, he adds.

It's also important to bring a satellite communication device on more extensive trips and let someone know where you're going and when to expect you to return.

"The risks for being unprepared or uninformed in the winter have a lot more severe consequences," Webster said.

With files from Dave Gilson

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