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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

Seafest parade sails on June 27

Tides are turning during COVID-19 for Prince Rupert parade

SD 52 fires superintendent

Dr. Irene LaPierre removed from position immediately.

B.C. government eyes antlerless moose harvest increase in bid to save caribou

Antlerless moose hunts reduce predation for threatened mountain caribou, says ministry

Necropsy for Port Edward wolf is scheduled

Wolf sightings in Prince Rupert have increased

Wolf killed in Port Edward

Samples to be sent to lab. for testing

If Trudeau won’t stand up to Trump, how will regular people: Singh

Trudeau did not directly answer a question about Trump’s actions amid protests

VIDEO: Internal investigation into aggressive arrest by Kelowna Mountie

A video allegedly shows a Kelowna Mountie striking a man several times

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

John Horgan says COVID-19 restrictions won’t be eased regionally

B.C. Liberals urge ‘tailored’ response based on infections

Feds get failing grade for lack of action plan on anniversary of MMIWG report

‘Instead of a National Action Plan, we have been left with a Lack-of-Action Plan’

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

B.C. ranchers, lodge operators say Indigenous land title shuts them out

Tsilhqot’in jurisdiction affects grazing, access to private property

As two B.C. offices see outbreaks, Dr. Henry warns tests don’t replace other measures

Physical distancing, PPE and sanitizing remain key to reduce COVID-19 spread

Greater Victoria drive-thru window smashed after man receives burger without mustard

Greater Victoria Wendy’s staff call police after man allegedly rips Plexiglas barrier off window

Most Read