TRAIL DUO Tania Halik and Summit enjoy a quick snuggle. The pair have become the Ministry of Forests, Land and Natural Resource operations first ever Forster Creek trail hosts. Photo by Dan Walton

TRAIL DUO Tania Halik and Summit enjoy a quick snuggle. The pair have become the Ministry of Forests, Land and Natural Resource operations first ever Forster Creek trail hosts. Photo by Dan Walton

by Dan Walton

Pioneer Staff

To keep one of the valleys favourite spots in the backcountry functional for all user groups, a reasonable set of rules have taken a stronger effect after the hiring of a trail host.

The many groups which enjoy the Forster Creek drainage have come together to implement user guidelines, which offer a balanced compromise for any flavour of glacial enjoyment. The drainage is located about 45 kilometres northwest of the Village of Radium Hot Springs, and has found common ground among its regular users and affected governments the Columbia Valley Hut Society, Windermere Valley Snowmobile Society, Toby Creek Adventures, and RK Heliski, as well as the Village of Radium Hot Springs, Tourism Radium, Regional District of East Kootenay Area G director Gerry Wilkie, and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations.

This is a good next step to make the use of the area more responsible, safe, and it helps out the clubs with some of their jobs, said Aina Cernenoks, recreation officer with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

Named to the role of trail host was Tania Halik, whose was able to add a valuable companion to the job. Along with her dog Summit, Tania became certified through the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association in January a processwhichtooktwoyears, andnow allows the duo to respond to avalanche disasters. Before earningtheir certification last month, Tania and Summit could only assist in an emergency.

Their rescue skills were further refined on Saturday, February 21st, during a mock avalancherescuescenario,whichinvitedoutmembersofeveryorganizationthatdeal withavalanchedanger.

Itwasquite a big scenario and a lot of people came,Taniasaid.It was good practice we had a scenario of five people lost in an avalanche up at Paradise [Basin].

Of the five buried dummies, Tania said the team was able to recover four and thebodythatcouldntbefoundwastheonlyonewithoutabeacon. Withoutabeacontransceiver,theteamssearchtacticswerereducedtoprobingtechniques.

Summit spent more than an hour and a half searching, Taniasaid,whichisamongthelongesthe’severspentunderintensepressure.

“It’sthelife of a working doghe’s not a pet. He has to be outside as much as possible to handle the weather,”shesaid. “Basically he cannot be a princess.”

But despite some tough love, Tania said that Summit is a sweetheart,andthathe’sunusuallytoughfor a border collie.

Whilelastweek’sdemonstrationwas heldforemergencyresponders, many backcountry users are familiar with Tania through her work as the trail host.

“Tania is great,” said snowmobiler Mike Dowling. “Mostly because of added safety, having a canine search team around all the time. It’s pretty cool watching her dog find buried objects. They’re pretty efficient.”

As the trail host, Tania discusses with Forster Creek recreationalists the guidelines of use, she collects fees, demonstrates emergency safety responses, and collects basic data.

On any given day, she said there are at least ten users on site, about 70 per cent of which are from Alberta. She encourages enjoyment of the area, but steers traffic away from forbidden areas.

“I’m trying in a friendly way to inform and educate about reasons for the closure, and keep them out of the closed area,” she said. “If they ask where to go, I have maps and brochures for them.”

“She puts on a welcoming face, and will answer any questions about services and so forth,” said Gerry Wilkie. “The main thing is to establish a presence.”

Tania said that while most users are prepared with proper safety equipment probes, shovels, and a transceiver some people aren’t comfortable using it.

“I held four avalanche awareness days for the people up there the search gear was set up, and I taught them how to effectively search with transceivers, as well as proper probing and shoveling techniques.”

The trail host is a pilot project under trial for its first season, and will be reviewed for renewal upon the end of the season.