Avalanche danger has remained considerable for the past week in the West Kootenays and as a result, there was a fatality in the Whitewater vicinity on January 21. We heard of this sombre incident from a man skiing the resort as we were about to leave on a tour of 5 Mile Basin the following day. Learning this was blood-chilling, but, not coincidentally, the route we had planned did not include any committing avalanche terrain. Afterall, the regional avalanche report had been reading “Conditions are primed for people triggering avalanches. Don’t let the lure of deep powder draw you into terrain that’s inappropriate for the conditions.” for the last few days.
Different people are comfortable with different levels of risk and that’s fine. However there might be another factor to consider here. Two weeks ago, a video of a snowboarder surviving an avalanche thanks, presumably, to an airbag went viral on corporate and social media. All three members of the party who triggered the avalanche on January 21 were equipped with airbags. Two survived. Is avalanche technology making the backcountry more dangerous by providing users with an inflated sense of confidence?
We believe there is no reason to venture into complex terrain when the snowpack is unstable. Here’s why: