We know you may want to escape to the backcountry right now, but it could be dangerous. With cities around B.C. and Alberta declaring states of emergency, Parks Canada is urging everyone to stay away from Western Canada's backcountry in order to limit your risk and the risk to rescuers. While officials want people to enjoy the fresh air, everyone is encouraged to limit dangerous activities.
With more and more ski and snowboard mountains closing for the season, Parks Canada is worried that everyone will start taking their favourite activity to the backcountry.
In a public statement posted on the Parks Mountain Safety Facebook page, all backcountry travellers are asked to keep their personal risk “to an absolute minimum.”
“Now is not the time to have a backcountry accident, which will stress the capacity of our teams and the medical system,” the statement warned.
While Parks Canada is urging everyone to stay away from potentially dangerous areas, they aren’t discouraging outdoor activity at all.
“Enjoy the fresh air, but please help everyone out by restraining your activities,” wrote the safety group.
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Parks Canada is not the only notable group that has made a statement about outdoor activities during this pandemic.
Avalanche Canada has also released an official statement to refrain from backcountry actives during this time.
Officials have noted that COVID-19 is creating unprecedented challenges to the healthcare system.
This is why Avalanche Canada is asking people to stay away from backcountry activities as a way to avoid adding more of a load to the system.
British Columbia Search and Rescue Association has followed the lead of others and has stated on Facebook that social distancing may result in people keeping themselves busy in B.C.'s outdoors.
While this is encouraged, they are suggesting people stick to familiar and safe trails, plan extra time to get back with plenty of daylight, and go with someone or a small group.
You should also tell someone where you are going and when you are expected to be back.
“If everyone takes these precautions, not only can you have an enjoyable, healthy and safe trip outdoors but BC’s search and rescue volunteers will be ready to assist others if needed,” writes the post.
Fernie Search and Rescue in B.C. and Kananaskis Country Public Safety in Alberta have also jumped on board with issuing statements.
“Users should choose activities in areas that support emergency access and present minimal challenges and/or hazards,” writes the Kananaskis Country Public Safety on Facebook.
“Backcountry assistance has the potential to add unnecessary stress to the health care system, put public safety staff at risk, including to exposure to COVID-19, which could then impact resources to support search and rescue.”
Head of Fernie Search and Rescue told the Calgary Herald that their main concern is for rescuers who respond to call-outs and the risk of exposing themselves “to an environment that we don’t want to be in” such as inside a helicopter where social distancing is not an option.
With more people being laid off because of COVID-19, there may be the urge to go out and explore.
While officials are not discouraging this, they are asking the public to be safe, mindful, and do activities that limit exposure for both yourself and rescuers.