How safe is it? Has anyone died?
We take your safety, and ours, seriously. BRC has never had a fatality but there is always risk of injury and possible death in the back-country because we are dealing with a natural and uncontrolled environment.
Over our 15 year history there have been two avalanches involving a full avalanche burial, with one person sustaining long-term injury. Injuries, especiially to knees, resulting from falls and impacts with trees and rocks, are more common.
The level of risk is similar to driving your car on a snow covered road for the day. Over a 40 year period of cat skiing in BC there have been 2 avalanche fatalities this is out of an estimated 1.2 million skier days. This graph below from the Utah avalanche centre provides some perspective. We think this is about right - that if you come cat skiing that it is about half the risk of going parachuting, and about half the risk of running a marathon.
In addition to the lead and tail guide, we believe that we are the only cat skiing operation of have a mobile safety team on the mountain almost every day. During our ski guide training course, we will often have a 3rd tail guide with the group.
Some of the many steps that we take to help manage this risk are:
- We use only qualifed guides:
Supervising Guides must be ACMG Ski Guides or Canada Ski Guide Level 3 qualified
Lead Guides must be Canada Ski Guide Level 2 qualified or ACMG assistant guides.
Tail Guides - must have at a minimum their CAA 1 and a 40 Hour wilderness first aid, but often have CSGA1 and additional avalanche and first aid qualifications.
- We have a safety and support team out on the mountains almost every day - they are mobile on snowmobiles, doing stability testing and providing rapid extra assistance if required.
- We use our own radio repeater - that gives us constant communications in the whole area. We also have a satellite phone, and cell phone coverage in half of the area.
- We do snow testing and take weather observations every day.
- We are part of Infoex for the CAA - this means that share information with about 100 other operations in Canada every day in relation to avalanche and weather observations
- We have rescue caches in the snowcats and at our base.
- We use what we think are the best transceivers - the Mammut "Pulse"
- Our terrain and cat roads allow us to get to the top of all the mountains that we ski - this is helpful as it means that we do not have large uncontrollable avalanche slopes hanging above us