BY KIRSTEN DOUGLAS
In light of the rescues conducted by the Nelson Search and Rescue in the backcountry near Whitewater ski resort this winter, the ATLAS Academy (through L.V. Rogers Secondary) would like to bring the public up to date on recent learning experiences, training activities and essential aspects to consider before heading out into the backcountry.
In the first month of the new semester for students enrolled in ATLAS, they took part in seven “out trips,” learning adventures in the outdoors. These activities included snowshoeing, ski touring and snow caving in the surrounding Kootenay backcountry.
Filled with teachable moments and heaps of information on survival techniques, avalanche rescue and leadership, my peers and myself have already begun to accumulate a broadening skill set in safety and survival in the backcountry.
Through the month of February our class gathered knowledge in snow science, recognizing weak layers in the snowpack through varying techniques including compression tests, snow pits and terrain evaluation. A surprise for the class was being able to enjoy a full day of ski touring during a considerable avalanche danger rating up at Kootenay Pass. We were able to reach the ridge of Baldy Rocks and ski great lines while maintaining a low level of exposure to avalanches by choosing our terrain wisely, avoiding start zones and being fully aware of the snow conditions present. We made a group decision to ski simple terrain in tight trees instead of open shoots and still managed to hit fantastic powder.
Although ATLAS is an outdoor academy, we dedicate at least one or two days each week to in class studies which include navigation, first aid training and most recently human factor lectures. Human factors are elements of risk entirely created by an individual or group’s willingness to take part in dangerous activities based on peer pressure, familiarity and over confidence. As a group of 16 teenagers, many of who are extremely talented in high hazard sports, we as a class are continuously focusing on limiting these factors to ensure the health of our bodies and the safety of our group.
One of the most profound lessons we cultivated in the first month of our course is humility, overcoming the “ignorance is bliss” stage and recognizing the incredible power and strength a mountain embodies.
We are beginning to understand how to fully immerse ourselves in the beauty and pure enjoyment the alpine has to offer without waking a beast we won’t be able to tame.
Hope to see you out there, stay safe!
For more information regarding the ATLAS academy you can find us on the LVR website at http://www.lvr.sd8.bc.ca/atlas.html or like us on Facebook at ATLAS – takes you there.