Many of you have noticed such headlines as, “Father with two young sons spend the night out after skiing out of bounds…” or “A snowboarder was located this morning after spending a cold night outside…”

It seems like every weekend there is another report of a young snowboarder or skier who ducked under the ropes to access untouched power, only to find themselves dealing with the impossible task of retracing their route up slope or to keep heading down into the unknown. Most of the time the unknown is steep, rocky, and committing terrain in the form of a creek bottom.

These are high-risk locations for avalanches and are generally not places you want to find yourself as recreational snowboarders and skiers. Not a week goes by that we don’t hear of another person who has run into trouble at a North Shore ski resort—out of bounds—and was saved by local search and rescue personnel.

Having the right knowledge, skills, experience, and proper equipment is important for any backcountry enthusiast who wishes to adventure off the maintained slopes of a ski resort. This winter the Outdoor Recreation Program at VIU is offering a weekend introductory avalanche course at Mt. Washington that will help students develop knowledge and skills that can be used to increase their safety and the safety of their group in the backcountry.

If you are interested in skiing out of bounds or venturing into the backcountry, this two-day course could be for you. This course covers the identification of avalanche terrain, the use of avalanche beacons, mountain weather, snowpack stability tests, and mock avalanche burial practice. We even spend the Saturday night in the new Vancouver Island Mountain Centre located on Mt. Washington.

The course cost is $100, an outstanding value for interested VIU students. Pick up a copy of the student activity guide, the Scuttlebutt, for further information on how to register for this and other exciting programs.

Sliding through deep fresh powder is one of those feelings that is difficult to describe—you just have to try it for yourself. Taking an avalanche course is an essential first step in the endless search for fresh tracks in the backcountry.