Snowboarders found safe outside Big White Ski Area
Two snowboarders were lucky to be scared, cold, tired and hungry rather than dead after spending part of the night in the bush Sunday.
The two Kelowna men, both in their 20s, were only bargaining for a day of fun at Big White Ski Resort. However, the pair got separated from a friend on their last run of the day, around 3 p.m., in the Gem Lake area.
“The friend made extensive efforts to find his friends at the resort,” said Kelowna RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey.
“But after some time went by and he started to fear the worst, he went to the Big White Fire Department with his concern over his two friends. It was the fire chief who called the Kelowna RCMP shortly after 8 p.m.”
The police quickly called in Central Okanagan Search and Rescue, who in turn mobilized several members of the Kelowna Snowmobile Club. The volunteers and staffers from the three agencies started their search along trails north of Big White. Searchers found some tracks heading north, away from the resort, toward the Greystokes recreation area.
“The pair had become disoriented and were heading further into the bush rather than back to the resort,” said Raphael Nowak of Central Okanagan Search and Rescue.
“They spent several hours struggling through deep snow and actually managed to cover a considerable distance. Unfortunately, that effort only ended up delaying their rescue.”
Staying in the first place you find yourself lost and waiting to be rescued is one of the recommendations from the B.C. Search and Rescue Association’s AdventureSmart program. The search team ultimately found the two snowboarders at 3:30 a.m. in a heavily-wooded area two kilometers east of Derickson Lake. The two were scared, tired, cold and hungry. Because it had been a mild day on the ski slopes earlier, the two were not dressed or equipped to spend the night in the woods, especially with the dark and the temperature plunging.
The men showed signs of moderate hypothermia, so they were brought out to the road on snowmobiles, where they were checked out by B.C. Ambulance workers. The ambulance personnel determined the men should be taken to hospital for assessment and treatment. As of Monday afternoon, it wasn’t known if the pair had been released from hospital.
“Central Okanagan Search and Rescue would like to remind anyone wishing to explore the backcountry to ensure they are properly equipped, with at least the 10 essentials for wilderness travel,” said Nowak.
The 10 essentials cover everything from a cell phone and/or beacon and/or spot device, extra food and water and clothing to a flashlight, fire starter and emergency shelter. However, because the snowboarders got lost at a resort, they didn’t expect to be doing any backcountry survival. It’s not known if they were carrying cell phones or, if they were out of range to call for help.
A spot device, also known as a satellite personal tracker, can be activated if you get lost. It automatically alerts local police or search and rescue crews to your location.
“Central Okanagan Search and Rescue would like to gratefully acknowledge the contribution of Kelowna Snowmobile Club members, without whose help this might have become a tragedy,” said Nowak
Steve MacNaull for The Daily Courier