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dogs

Steve and Jennifer with their co-workers, Mojo and Farley. Photo opposite : The Free Press

FERNIE ALPINE RESORT’S

RESCUE DOG TEAMS 2010-2011

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RESCUE DOGS

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Avalanche Rescue

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Fernie Alpine Resort will host dozens of avalanche rescue dogs and their handlers this winter at the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association’s annual training and testing course. Rebecca Edwards finds out how dogs are trained to be winter life-savers. by Rebecca Edwards

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12

www.thefreepress.ca - Winter 2010/2011

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13


RESCUE DOGS

Just another day at work for

Mojo

Did you know? Gfsojf!bwbmbodif!eph!Lfop!boe!ijt! iboemfs!Spcjo!Tjhhfst!xfsf!uif!ß!stu! boe!pomz!eph!ufbn!jo!Dbobeb!up! nblf!b!mjwf!bwbmbodif!sftdvf-!xifo! uifz!gpvoe!mjgujf!Szbo!Sbedifolp! cvsjfe!uxp!nfusft!effq!jo!3111/

ON THE SLOPES

Do’s & Don’ts

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The Shuttle & The Charters Calgary & Cranbrook - Airport SHUTTLE Services Winter 2010-2011 FERNIE ---> CRANBROOK * Wed., Sat., Sun. ONLY * Best Western Fernie 10:00

Ski Hill 10:30

CRANBROOK ---> FERNIE * Wed., Sat., Sun. ONLY * FERNIE ---> CALGARY

CALGARY ---> FERNIE TERS PRIVATE CHAR uest! req on up le availab

Cranbrook Airport 11:45

Cranbrook Airport 14:00

Ski Hill 15:15

Best Western Fernie 15:45

* DAILY * Best Western Fernie 6:00 11:00

Ski Hill 6:30 11:30

Calgary Airport 11:30 16:00

* DAILY * Calgary Airport 13:30 19:00

Ski Hill 17:30 23:00

Best Western Fernie 18:00 23:30

¦!Ofwfs!dbmm!b!sftdvf!eph!up!zpv.! uibu!jt!uif!iboemfsÖt!kpc Photos top to bottom: Mojo in training. Steve Morrison, Magnified snow crystals. The Free Press, Steve & Mojo flying to work. Jennifer Coulter

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Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog (CARDA)

TRAINING TIMELINE 6 months2 years:

6 months later:

1 year of working:

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2nd year of work: Bgufs!tfbsdijoh!boe! pcfejfodf!uftujoh!bu!b! tfdpoe!dpotfdvujwf!xjoufs! dpvstf-!uifz!nbz!cfdpnf!b! SDNQ!bddsfejufe! sftdvf!eph/

FOR RATES & TO RESERVE:

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www.thefreepress.ca - Winter 2010/2011

Winter 2010/2011 - www.thefreepress.ca

15


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HOLLYWOOD comes to Fernie

Get out your fluorescent one piece, head band and skinny skis – Fernie is heading back to 1986. By Rebecca Edwards

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Expect cheesy 80s music, fluorescent outfits, big hair and skinny skis – as well as shots of Fernie's beautiful mountains. Qbhf!29!Ñ!UIF!GFSOJF!HVJEF!.!Xjoufs!311:03121!

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Fernie locals are transformed. Photos: The Free Press !Xjoufs!311:03121!.!UIF!GFSOJF!HVJEF!Ñ!Qbhf!2:


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On Location

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On location at the plaza at FAR. Photo: FAR

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A wide selection of Giftware, Hardware, Paint & Toys Great & friendly advice Located at 441 2nd Ave in historic downtown Fernie

250-423-4496 ferniehomehardware@telus.net

O P E N

Mon.-Thurs. & Sat. 9:00 am - 5:30 pm Friday 9:00 am - 7:00 pm Closed Sundays

From decorating to renovating, we have you covered. !Xjoufs!311:03121!.!UIF!GFSOJF!HVJEF!Ñ!Qbhf!32


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NOW! LET IT SNOW!

By Rebecca Edwards

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T hurs da y , Ja n u a r y 2 8 , 2010

Serving the South Country, Sparwood, Fernie, Elkford since 1898

$1 ( inc lude s GS T)

Elk Valley Olympic torch photos • Pages 2 and 27 • Bonus coverage in The Valley inside this paper • Extra photos online at www.thefreepress.ca

Lift off for heli-rescue team By Rebecca Edwards Free Press Staff

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(Left to right) Nic Milligan, Teck Coal presents a $50,000 cheque to Steve Robertson, President of Elk Valley Helirescue, watched by society directors Sharron Thomas, Marilyn Robertson, Chris Thomas, Bernie Palmer and Bernie Van Tighem, Elkford Fire Chief and Greg Goodison, pilot at Bighorn Helicopters. Missing team directors are Jen Coulter and Rick Adams. Photo by A. Treharne

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heli-rescue team has been formed by Elk Valley rescue teams to get help to backcountry accident victims faster. The team will cover the East Kootenay region and will include eight trained long-line rescue team members who can be lowered from the helicopter and extract victims to safety. As well as reaching victims in minutes rather than hours, the team will be able to access victims in awkward places such as ledges or unstable avalanche zones. Currently the nearest heli-rescue teams are in Golden, Nelson or Canmore. Teck Coal is donating $100,000 to the Elk Valley Heli-Rescue Society $50,000 to set up the soci-

ety and $10,000 each year greatest area – there was for the next five years to an opportunity to involve cover running costs. members of each of the Teck’s Manager search and rescue organof Community and izations in the Elk Valley. Governmental Affairs Nic “We also call upon the Milligan said the company search and rescue groups in was keen to other areas “This is an support local and this emergency service search and is equipfor if an accident rescue services ment that happens – it isn’t after seeing w o u l d the response to giving people licence also assist the avalanche to do whichever silly them.” in December thing they want.” T h e 2008 which society !"#$%&'"()*%& i n c l u d e s took the +,-$.#,%/0,&1,*)&2$#,/1(#& lives of eight members Sparwood of Fernie and District Search men, several of them Teck and Rescue (FADSAR), employees. Sparwood Search and “That incident high- Rescue and the Elkford lighted the importance of Fire Department. these organizations for us,” Heli-rescue team director he said. “We wanted to rec- Chris Thomas said having ognize that in a significant the long-line capability will way.” allow victims to be rescued Milligan added: “Of all more easily from areas that the projects that search are difficult to reach by and rescue were hoping foot. to develop, the heli-rescue “A few weeks ago we team was applicable to the rescued an injured snow-

mobiler in a helicopter but we had to lug him up a slope to where the helicopter could land. With long line we could lift him up to a landing place which would be much quicker and less people involved. “We have an avalanche beacon detector for the helicopter so possibly in a dangerous avalanche zone we could lower someone down to dig a victim out, and if another avalanche was to happen the helicopter could fly away and take them out of there.” However Thomas, who is also a Fernie Search and Rescue director, warned that the helicopter is not a backcountry taxi service. “You should always be adequately prepared to look after yourself in the backcountry. This is an emergency service for if an accident happens – it isn’t giving people licence to do whichever silly thing they want.”

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Choosing to backcountry ski with people who had the latest avalanche rescue training saved Fernie photographer Todd Weselake’s life. He tells Rebecca Edwards what he learned from being buried 2 metres deep in an avalanche. By Rebecca Edwards Free Press Staff

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s Todd Weselake travelled into the backcountry with his friends Ian Bezubiak and Janina Kuzma on January 8, 2008, he chatted to them about the new avalanche rescue technique they had been taught weeks earlier. As an experienced backcountry user and the mountain photographer at Island Lake Lodge, 23-year-old Todd had plenty of avalanche training, but Janina and Ian were among the first students to learn the new digging technique – and hours later became the first people to use it to rescue their friend. Previously, avalanche rescuers had always located a buried victim using a transceiver and probe, then dug straight down the probe towards them. The new technique – which is now standard worldwide – sees rescuers pinpoint the victim’s location and then move down slope and dig sideways into the mountain, moving snow faster and preventing it from blocking the hole. “I said it to Ian and Janina, I said it in the guides meetings – why didn’t we think

Todd Weselake. Submitted photo

of that before?” said Todd – who did not realize that hours later the faster, more efficient technique would save his life. “I don’t think the old digging technique would have got me out,” he added. “I don’t think two of them could dig a two metre hole that quickly.” That day, the avalanche rating was “considerable,” and the Canadian Avalanche Centre’s local bulletins were warning about a significant ice layer at 1 to 1.5 metres deep. “We knew the ice layer was there, we knew the risk of triggering it was quite low but if it did it was going to be quite big,” says Todd. “We had it in our minds to stay out of terrain to limit the size of any avalanche that did happen.” They decided to head to Cold Feet Bowl on the north side of Mount Proctor near Fernie, where they felt there was shallower terrain and treed areas that would be safe to ski. “We had skied it the day before so we were fairly confident, we didn’t see any natural slides or anything that we triggered,” said Todd. “ It was average

Prepare to Love Winter is The Free Press winter safety campaign. We want you to have the equipment, knowledge and training to enjoy all winter activities safely and will be running a series of articles on winter safety this season.

backcountry conditions in that sense – we knew we had to choose our terrain but we could still go out there.” The trio started taking it in turns to ski the slope, with Todd taking photos of the others as they passed him. He describes what he remembers next. “At three-quarters of the way down Ian took a turn into the side of the slope and it slabbed out on itself in a size 1.5 avalanche.

“I couldn’t move my fingers, couldn’t move my arms or anything. All I could think was I’m dead. I was 100 per cent convinced I was dead at that point.” Todd Weselake

“At that point we knew something had changed and decided to meet at the trees at a very safe place to discuss what to do now. I said I would go down first and see what was up ahead. I went further down the slope where there were some old growth spruce trees then called back ‘It’s good to go’. “At that moment I heard Ian yell ‘Avalanche!’ The first thing I thought was ‘no way’ – it wasn’t typical avalanche terrain. “I grabbed onto a tree as hard as I could. The front wall of the avalanche hit

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East Kootenay Community Credit Union is offering a Community Award Grant of $12,500.00 to one of five Fernie charities.

Elk Valley Hospice is one of the Fernie five. If we receive this grant we will purchase two beds for the palliative care rooms at the Elk Valley Hospital

Outline shows the avalanche path. The circle in the middle is where Todd was buried. Photo by T. Weselake

me and blew me off the tree backwards. I landed on my back on the snow and that part started to slab so I was sliding backwards down slightly under the surface but I could still see light so I was pretty sure I was okay. “As it started to slow down I actually yelled up ‘I’m ok’ but, as I yelled, the remainder of the avalanche hit me and plunged me downhill. “I was on my back trying to swim but could feel it pushing me deeper and deeper under still. “Then it just stopped - I couldn’t move my fingers, couldn’t move my arms or anything. All I could think was I’m dead. I was 100 per cent convinced I was dead at that point, that I was way too deep to get me out in time. Then I passed out.” Watching the avalanche from above, Janina and Ian followed their training – first checking the area was safe, then switching their own transceivers to “receive” mode before covering the area in search of a signal from Todd’s beacon. They finally got a signal several hundred metres away at the crown of the avalanche and probed the snow until they hit his helmet, 2 metres down. Following the new digging technique, they dug into the slope, first clearing Todd’s head and then chest of snow. “My camera bag was around my chest,” says Todd. “When they took it off, all the weight came off my chest with it so my lungs filled up with air and I started breathing.

“Shortly after that I opened my eyes and started mumbling. They said my first words were “We should take pictures.” The digital photos taken that day show that it took about 15 minutes from when the avalanche happened until Todd began breathing, and then another five minutes again to get him free. He was uninjured but was hypothermic so they decided to make their own way back to Fernie, meaning Todd had to get back on his snowboard to get down the mountain, then take a 10km snowmobile ride back to their trucks before driving to Fernie Hospital, where staff were waiting with heating blankets. Two hours later, Todd was released from hospital and, he admits, “there was a lot of alcohol involved that night – it probably wasn’t the wisest thing but it was the only way I got any sleep that night.” The next day Todd made himself go back to work taking photos of cat skiers at Island Lake Lodge. “I wasn’t going to give up on the backcountry – it happened it and it really sucked but I wasn’t going to let that stop me in any way,” he said. “Going back to Island Lake meant it was still the backcountry but I was with experienced guides and in controlled situations – it was a very good way to get back into it.” Several days later he had the chance to

fly over the avalanche path in a helicopter, and could still see the hole that he was pulled out of. “It definitely made it real to see the actual size of it. It was quite remarkable,” he said. Todd says the experience has made him want to take every opportunity he can and not waste any days. He adds that he sees high-profile avalanche incidents differently. “I don’t like the way a lot of people judge people right away, without having all the information. The people it happens to are people who love what they are doing - we all know the risks, they might have made a mistake but whatever we do in life it’s guaranteed you will make a mistake at something eventually.” He says the key thing for any backcountry traveller is to ensure they have training and then to use that training to assess the terrain and conditions. “There is always the risk management side to it – you don’t jump straight into the big terrain, you have to read the avalanche bulletin in the morning and ask people who are out there a lot. “Do your own visual research - look for clues. “It will never eliminate the risks but you can control the risk. The only way you can do that is by going out and getting the education so you know what to look for.”

EVENT

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Why you and your friends need avalanche training

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