Vernon SAR snowmobile night training exercise at Silver Star, December 2018. (Photo contributed)

Search crews warn snowmobilers not to do ‘something stupid’ Family Day weekend

Lack of preparation and ‘poor-decision making’ contribute to the high number of rescue calls

Snowmobilers who make poor decisions are a source of frustration for Vernon Search and Rescue volunteer Leigh Pearson.

A member of Vernon SAR since 1987, Pearson says the bulk of the volunteer organization’s call-outs this time of year are for lost or missing sledders. And, with the Family Day weekend around the corner, an uptick in snowmobile activity is not out of the equation.

“This time of year, snowmobilers are the ones we get called out to the most. It’s sort of been a thorn in our side,” said Pearson. “In the Vernon area, snowmobilers are a considerable problem due to poor decision-making on their part: going places they shouldn’t go and being unprepared.”

While search and rescue teams throughout B.C. face similar issues, Pearson says the Okanagan Valley sees an overwhelming number of snowmobile-related incidents.

So far this season, Vernon Search and Rescue has been called out a total of nine times for lost or missing snowmobile riders in the area. Five of those calls were received in one day.

They included eight injured riders, two who had gotten stuck in unfamiliar terrain and one who had gotten lost. Several required helicopter rescue.

Related: Man spends cold night in Shuswap’s Blue Lake snowmobile area

Related: Sunday a ‘gong show’ for Vernon Search and Rescue

Shuswap Search and Rescue (SSAR) search manager John Schut said his team has been called to seven incidents involving snowmobiles since December. Of these, three involved injuries and one resulted in a fatality. He said there have been more snowmobile-involved incidents this winter than last in their coverage area.

Pearson said that though all teams in the area are busy during the winter months, Vernon tends to have the most “tasks.” He added last year was an exception with Vernon SAR receiving 50 calls and Salmon Arm and Kelowna both getting more.

All authorities interviewed agreed that while incidents are often unpredictable, people can work to better prepare themselves.

Gord Bushell, general manager of the Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club, said many of the snowmobilers who get lost in the Shuswap’s backcountry do so because of poor judgment in the hours leading up to nightfall.

“Nine times out of 10, it’s three o’clock in the afternoon and they decide to do something stupid. Three o’clock in the afternoon is the time you should actually be going home,” Bushell said.

Pearson said while awareness of safety precautions has increased in recent years, people often go out unprepared.

He said people need to take precautions and “expect to be out all night, even if you were only planning on being there for 20 minutes.”

Pearson suggests riders bring extra clothing, warm water in a thermos, food, no alcohol, a plastic tarp or anything that can be used to make a shelter, and supplies to make a fire. He also advises people to check the weather in advance, tell someone the planned route and travel in groups.

He also suggested riders download of a new app recently launched by the federal government: AdventureSmart Trip, which allows backcountry adventurers to plan out their trip beforehand while providing users useful tips.

Along with avalanche beacons, shovels, probes and other safety gear, Bushell said a means of person-to-person communication can be an invaluable piece of gear to pack before a trip into the backcountry.

He said more and more sledders are purchasing GPS units which allow them to send text messages via satellite.

Bushell noted one group of sledders hunkered down and got a fire going after communicating they were lost but safe. They were located by snowmobile club members the following morning.

Schut and Pearson also praised the effectiveness of communications devices for assisting searches. Schut recommends sledders carry a GMRS radio or a satellite transceiver device like the Spot or inReach.

Related: Snowmobiler dies near Lumby

Related: RCMP looking for witnesses after man died in snowmobiling accident

Related: Snowmobiler dies in Barriere backcountry

To report a typo, email:
newstips@vernonmorningstar.com
.



Follow me on Twitter @BrieChar
Email me brieanna.charlebois@vernonmorningstar.com
Like us on Facebook.

 

Shuswap Volunteer Search and Rescue members marshall at the bottom of the Owlhead snowmobile area to search for a group of lost sledders on Jan. 1.(File Photo)

Just Posted

Latest round of Columbia River Treaty talks wrap up in Cranbrook

Federal, provincial, U.S. and Indigenous representatives recently met for eight round of discussions

Cannabis beverages to be bottled in Bridesville

Vancouver-based BevCanna also plans on growing cannabis nearby

First Nations given max compensation for Ottawa’s child-welfare discrimination

2016 ruling said feds didn’t give same funding for on-reserve kids as was given to off-reserve kids

People’s Party candidate in South Okanagan-West Kootenay steps forward

Taylor talks about PPC platforms on economics, immigration and climate change

South Okanagan-West Kootenay candidates ready for federal election campaign

Here are the candidates running in the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash

Sharie Minions says she is ‘appalled’ by condition of road where bus crashed

UVic president offers condolences after two students killed in bus crash

‘We also grieve with those closest to these members of our campus community,’ Cassels says

Coming Home: B.C. fire chief and disaster dog return from hurricane-ravaged Bahamas

The pair spent roughly one week on Great Abaco Island assisting in relief efforts

Newcomer Ferland lines up with sniper Pettersson as Vancouver Canucks camp opens

Ferland provides more depth and a scoring threat up front, Pettersson says

Intelligence official charged seemed to be ‘exemplar of discretion’: UBC professor

Professor Paul Evans says he served on Cameron Ortis’s doctoral dissertation committee

B.C. company gets licence to test psychedelic drugs for therapy treatment

Salvation Botanicals interested in manufacturing, testing and research and development

B.C. police watchdog to investigate man’s head injury during RCMP arrest

Suspect fled on a bicycle and fell off when an officer attempted to stop him

‘A real shame’: B.C. MLA says factors behind Tolko mill closing should have been caught

Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson said the industry is in bad shape across the province

VIDEO: Seniors at B.C. assisted living facility shocked by Oct. 1 eviction notice

Building owners terminate lease for McGuire Lake Congregate Living in Salmon Arm

Most Read