"What, are you STUPID?"
I’m a pretty sympathetic guy, but we’ve got an issue here. I read this on my Blackberry on my way home last night and was incensed.
A couple are out skiing for a romantic weekend away, they get lost, put SOS in the snow, the cops are taking heat for not searching quickly enough, and the wife actually dies. It’s terrible and tragic, but there’s a whole lot that has to be asked before we start pillorying the cops. And I’ve got absolutely no complaints with turning on a light and watching the cops scurry back into the shadows.
There are some major flags going up in that story. It starts off bad enough. He had to use his skis to fight off wolves. Wow. But these weren’t ordinary people, they were “experienced skiiers” - some family members were on the national ski team. Okay, experienced skiier perhaps, but they were pretty bloody stupid along the way.
He goes into survival mode. He’s an “avid hunter”, okay. They could cut wood and make shelter for themselves. They survived by eating leaves and drinking river water. They survived the cold.
But what were they thinking?
There’s nothing particularly wrong with skiing out of bounds, but you absolutely need to have the skills to be in the back country. If you haven’t heard about the deaths from avalanche this year you have NO business being out there.
The first night they stayed in Lake Louise. They then drove to the Mountaineer Lodge near Golden at the Kicking Horse Resort, where they spent the night of Feb. 14, police said in statement issued Wednesday afternoon.
The couple checked out of the Mountaineer Lodge on Feb. 15 and went skiing at the resort. Sometime that day they went out of bounds and got lost, police said.
They checked out? Rule number one: Tell someone where you’re going. You don’t have to be precise, but if you’re going skiing near Golden, well, you need to let people know you’re going to be at the Kicking Horse Resort and you’ll be going to the back country.
Rule number two, if you get lost and you realize you cannot get back, your very first job is to set camp and care for yourself immediately. My kids understand this, the first thing you do is make shelter, the second thing you do is make a fire. We go through this each and every time we go camping. They know when we pull into a camp site, we still put up a tent first and start a fire - or at least collect the fire wood we’ll use - before we do anything else at all.
Rule number three, STAY PUT! SOS in the snow is a good idea, but SOS in the snow with a person huddling at a small fire and a lean-to shelter beside it is much, much better.
I seem to be way in the minority here, but there is no way I can hang the RCMP on this one. They didn’t sit on their hands, they looked for missing people from the resort. Yes, they should have put a ground search in action, but there’s absolutely zero chance that they’d have to do a ground search should they have found the couple huddling beside the SOS.
I’m still waiting on the wolves angle. They always sound close, if he was fighting them off with his skis, he was in over his head. Were they approaching his fire? How well designed was his camp?
This just doesn’t sound like a couple well-prepared to be out there in the back country. They made serious mistakes. They made it incredibly hard to find them once they were lost. No, they were not anywhere near experienced enough or prepared enough, nor did they have equipment necessary to go back country skiing.
It’s a stupid loss of life, but the stupidity did not start at the search team.