After a pair of chilly nights in the backcountry as part of their course activities

Students celebrated first day of spring at -16 C

A group of Selkirk students welcomed spring by spending a pair of frigid nights in the West Kootenay backcountry.

A group of Selkirk College Recreation, Fish and Wildlife Program students welcomed spring by spending a pair of frigid nights in the West Kootenay backcountry.

As part of an annual field trip for the program, 10 students and two instructors spent March 20 and 21 in the Selkirk Wilderness Skiing tenure near Meadow Creek in order to get hands-on experience for their Backcountry Risk Analysis and Mitigation II and Commercial Recreation Management courses.

“We were dropped off on a sparsely treed, east facing slope at an elevation of 2,100 meters and were left with only a three-metre snowpack and the backpacks on our backs,” says Selkirk College instructor Keyes Lessard.

Students and instructors built and slept in trench snow shelters designed to trap warm air generated by body heat. Despite the -16 to -18°C nighttime lows, the temperatures inside the shelters hovered from -1 to -3°C. This type of shelter is the preference over others because one stays relatively dry during its construction, a very important piece of information to learn for survival in such a harsh environment.

Students gained practical outdoor skills including avalanche risk assessment, winter travel and survival.

“One can only truly learn the tricks of the trade for the many winter camping challenges hands on,” says Selkirk College instructor Robyn Mitz. “Who knew that if one fails to add a little bit of water to the bottom of a pot while trying to melt snow for drinking water, that you will burn your pot?”

Lifelong soft skills — those skills that most employers are looking for in today’s world of constant change — were also acquired during the trip. Time management, organization and communication are all essential skills to living and surviving in the mountains with minimal supplies.

After two very cold nights and days travelling, learning and sliding in the snow, the group descended 900 meters to the lodge Selkirk Wilderness Skiing. The lodge owner graciously welcomed the tired group, providing warm showers, appetizers, coffee and a relaxed conversation about his experiences owning a commercial recreation business.

“As we sat in the warm and cozy Selkirk Wilderness Skiing lodge, with a beautiful view of the Purcell Mountains, enjoying a kale, mango and wheatgrass smoothie and a perfectly made Oso Negro Americano, our tanned faces, sore bodies, and tool box of newly acquired skills were reminders of the adventure we were just on,” says Lessard.

A hot gourmet dinner, a warm and comfortable bed that did not need to be shoveled out and erected for four hours prior to sleeping, a team building game around the pool table and many smiles on tanned faces was the perfect way to experience a commercial recreational business and enjoy the last night of the three night adventure field trip.

“A special thank you should go out to the fine folks at Selkirk Wilderness Skiing for their fantastic hospitality,” says Mitz. “To the students who endured a very challenging and adventurous trip, may the skills acquired on this trip and in the program act as positive foundations for their future endeavors.”

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