Winter Safety

When visiting BC Parks during the winter, prepare for cold temperatures, changing weather, challenging road conditions, short days, avalanches and variable ice conditions. All these factors mean less room for error in staying safe. Backcountry travelers are responsible for their own decisions and safety. Here are some tips for staying safe through winter outdoor recreation.

Before you go

Before You Go

Your adventure starts at home. AdventureSmart provides an outline of three T’s which include trip planning, training, and taking the essentials.

Trip plan

  • Look for updates (notices, closures, trail conditions) on the park webpage
  • Know the conditions (weather, sunrise/sunset times) and the terrain you’ll encounter
  • Make a trip plan and leave it with someone who’s not going with you (include when you expect to be back and when to call for help on your behalf)
  • Confirm road conditions with Drive BC
  • Monitor avalanche conditions with Avalanche Canada
  • Check whose ancestral and territorial land you are visiting with


  • Obtain the knowledge and skills you need before heading out (take required avalanche courses if entering the backcountry)
  • Know and stay within your limits
  • Start with small trips to get an understanding of your capabilities and build endurance

Take the essentials on any trip

In addition to specialized pieces of equipment that you would bring for your given activity (skis, a kayak, avalanche transceiver, etc.), or the items you would pack specifically for a camping trip (tent, sleeping bag, etc.), we strongly recommend the following basic survival items you should have in ANY outdoors situation.

While you're out there

While you're out there

Be observant! Keep an eye on the weather as conditions in mountain passes can change quickly. Know your surroundings! This will help you to stay on the trail and avoid getting lost. With snow-covered ground, it is easy to stray off course. Will you make it to the destination and back in time before sunset? The trail will always be there to come back to; knowing when to turn around is an important skill.

Check-in regularly with yourself and your group. Is anyone cold or wet? Is anyone experiencing signs of hypothermia? Do you have enough food and water? Being observant and asking the right questions can prevent you from entering a dangerous situation.

Monitor yourself and watch others for signs of hypothermia:

  • Shivering and goose bumps
  • Numbness
  • Shallow and quick breath
  • Uncoordinated
  • Confusion
  • Pale skin
  • Blue lips, ears, fingers, and toes
  • Trouble speaking, thinking, and walking
  • Puffy and blue exposed skin

To treat mild hypothermia, drink warm sweet liquids and wrap the affected person in warm blankets or clothing. For more severe hypothermia, seek immediate medical attention.

Learn more about hypothermia, frostbite, and the extreme cold from the Government of Canada.

In Case of an Emergency

In Case of an Emergency

  • S.T.O.P: Stop, Think, Observe, and Plan
  • Stay calm
  • Stay where you are (it reduces time and search area for the authorities looking for you)
  • Seek shelter (protect yourself from the elements by staying warm and dry)
  • Signal for help
  • Call for help in sets of 3 by using whistle blows, mirror flashes, or horns. Use sticks and branches to set up S.O.S on the ground The sign should be at least 3 meters long to be visible from the air
Avalanche safety

Avalanche Safety

  • Check Avalanche Canada for daily avalanche forecasts
  • All backcountry users have a responsibility to educate themselves on avalanche safety, terrain, and equipment
  • Each person needs a transceiver, probe and shovel and know how to rescue their companion – should the need arise
  • Consider taking the Avalanche Skills Training course (AST) (a list of instructors around the province is available from Avalanche Canada)
  • Avalanches are more likely where there has been heavy snowfall, wind or warming temperatures
Ice safety

Ice Safety

  • Ice thickness is not monitored within BC Parks (for recommendations on minimum depth for activities on new, clear, hard ice, visit AdventureSmart)
  • If you choose to skate/walk on natural ice, you do so at your own risk
Wildlife safety

Wildlife Safety

  • Bears may emerge from their dens through the winter
  • Slow down when driving at dusk and dawn, when animals are most active
Ice safety

Other tips

  • Take the essentials on any outdoor trip:
    • Flashlight or headlamp with spare batteries/bulb
    • Fire making kit
    • Signaling device (e.g., whistle or mirror)
    • Extra food and water
    • Extra clothing (warm layers and toque)
    • Navigation and communication aids (e.g., maps, compass, GPS receiver, satellite phone, two-way radios). Do not rely on your cell phone for navigation or for light!
    • First aid kit (and know how to use it)
    • Emergency shelter (e.g., large orange tarp or blanket – can act as an additional signaling device)
    • Pocket knife
    • Sun protection

Other Safety Resources