Risk and responsibility

Another terrible tragedy in the Kootenay backcountry and another round of questions about how to prevent such deaths.

Another terrible tragedy in the Kootenay backcountry and another round of questions about how to prevent such deaths.

The January scene was all too familiar down at the Norman Stibbs airport on Nelson’s waterfront. Search crews loading up helicopters to deal with a crisis in the mountains. Extreme sadness for those whose lives have been changed forever.

Every time there is loss of life in the backcountry, grappling with the question of why it happened is part of the story.

Why were these skiers out there when the avalanche rating was so high? Should the provincial government restrict access at certain points during the winter? How come people take such risks?

If the answers were easy, nobody would die in the glorious outdoors. The problem is, it’s a puzzle nobody will likely ever solve.

People involve themselves in risky behaviour every day. We don’t live in bubbles so even the simplest action of driving to work in the morning is filled with potential danger.

Those who enjoy activities such as backcountry skiing are well aware of the risks. Each time they embark on an outing there is an inherent danger. There’s a calculated risk and knowledge of the consequences. There’s always comfort in knowing only a tiny percentage of trips end in tragedy.

There is always talk of tighter regulations for backcountry activity when lives are lost. It’s a nearly impossible undertaking. This province is simply too vast and the opportunities too many.

Overregulating activities in the outdoors would be a mistake.

Those who venture out need to take responsibility for their own actions and play at their own risk. If they prepare themselves through proper training and monitoring of conditions, then the risks are their responsibility.

Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the Alberta man who lost his life this past weekend, but in no way is this a reason to overreact to what is a welcomed and cherished part of mountain life.