Big Red Catskiing Rossland BC Canada


How safe is it? Has anyone died?

We take your safety, and ours, seriously.  BRC has never had a fatality but there is always risk of injury and possible death in the back-country because we are dealing with a natural and uncontrolled environment.   

Over our 15 year history there have been two avalanches involving a full avalanche burial, with one person sustaining long-term injury.  Injuries, especiially to knees, resulting from falls and impacts with trees and rocks, are more common.

The level of risk is similar to driving your car on a snow covered road for the day.  Over a 40 year period of cat skiing in BC there have been 2 avalanche fatalities this is out of an estimated 1.2 million skier days.  This graph below from the Utah avalanche centre provides some perspective.  We think this is about right - that if you come cat skiing that it is about half the risk of going parachuting, and about half the risk of running a marathon.  



In addition to the lead and tail guide, we believe that we are the only cat skiing operation of have a mobile safety team on the mountain almost every day.  During our ski guide training course, we will often have a 3rd tail guide with the group.

Some of the many steps that we take to help manage this risk are:

  1. We use only qualifed guides:
    Supervising Guides must be ACMG Ski Guides or Canada Ski Guide Level 3 qualified
    Lead Guides must be Canada Ski Guide Level 2 qualified or ACMG assistant guides.
    Tail Guides - must have at a minimum their CAA 1 and a 40 Hour wilderness first aid, but often have CSGA1 and additional avalanche and first aid qualifications.   
  2. We have a safety and support team out on the mountains almost every day - they are mobile on snowmobiles, doing stability testing and providing rapid extra assistance if required.
  3. We use our own radio repeater - that gives us constant communications in the whole area.   We also have a satellite phone, and cell phone coverage in half of the area.
  4. We do snow testing and take weather observations every day.
  5. We are part of Infoex for the CAA - this means that share information with about 100 other operations in Canada every day in relation to avalanche and weather observations
  6. We have rescue caches in the snowcats and at our base.
  7. We use what we think are the best transceivers - the Mammut "Pulse"
  8. Our terrain and cat roads allow us to get to the top of all the mountains that we ski - this is helpful as it means that we do not have large uncontrollable avalanche slopes hanging above us