By Dan Walton

Pioneer Staff

Because adventurers in the Columbia Valley can be prone to avalanche danger, the local Search and Rescue team prepares its members for such accidents each year during avalanche training exercises.

This year the rescuers will be sharpening their skills on Friday, February 20th.

While Columbia Valley Search and Rescue has presented mock avalanche scenarios on the slopes of Panorama Mountain Resort in years past, this winter the simulations will take place in the Paradise Basin. Though its maintained for recreational use by Toby Creek Adventures, the basin offers a setting more pristine than whats at the resort.

Its realistic training, said Dave Hubbard, an avalanche professional with Panorama. Well be using the roads that they use to get up by snowmobiles to more open terrain.

Summit, the rescue dog (who was featured on the cover of The Pioneer on February 14th of last year), will also be volunteering his time to be part of the mock rescues.

For those familiar with the Toby Creek Adventures area, the demonstrations will be happening near the old mine and cabin, as well as in the Paradise Basin. Once there, the team will be co-ordinating, probing, and digging for buried targets, and plowing a makeshift helipad for pickup.

Volunteers and rescue workers from the Panorama Fire Department, Columbia Valley RCMP, as well as Search and Rescue teams from the Columbia Valley, Golden and Kimberley, have been invited to join.

Well be using snowmobiles and other means to get up there and do our rescue scenarios, said Mr. Hubbard.

The volunteers taking part are required to have their Avalanche Safety Training 1 qualification. This course can be acquired in the valley for those interested, Mr. Hubbard said. While next weeks training will be for volunteers of emergency response organizations, there are other opportunities for the public to get involved. One way is by applying to the local fire departments or search and rescue team.

To find out what Columbia Valley Search and Rescue is all about, drop into their Annual General Meeting at 6:30 p.m. at Copper Point Golf Club on Wednesday, February 18th.

Because search and rescue team members are volunteers and arent always able to respond, Mr. Hubbard said that its especially important to have a large roster.

They cant be at every call people have other commitments they often have to attend to.

And for those considering a return to search and rescue, Mr. Hubbard extends an invitation for the upcoming training to all past members.

Backcountry users are recommended to always check conditions with the Canadian Avalanche Association before heading out, to gain insight into current avalanche dangers in the region. Visit www.avalancheassociation.ca.