Remember - YOU are responsible for your own safety!

Weather

Never underestimate the power of weather in the mountains:

  • Check the local weather forecast before heading out, but be prepared for anything. Conditions can change rapidly in the mountains, from minute to minute and from place to place. Generally, the higher you go, the colder and windier it gets.
  • Take along clothing to protect you from wind, cold, rain or snow.
  • Dress in layers; adjust to prevent overcooling or overheating.
  • Use sunglasses and sunscreen, even on overcast or cool days. Ultraviolet radiation is stronger at higher elevations. Reflection from snow or ice can damage your eyes.
Wilderness

Hazards are part of the wilderness environment. Reduce the risks by following these guidelines:

  • Research your trip before you go.
  • Tell someone where you're going and when you will be back.
  • Take along a map.
  • Bring water, food, and extra clothing.
  • Travel with others, and keep your group together.
  • Stay on the trail; retrace your steps if unsure of your route.
  • Be prepared to stay out overnight, just in case. A search takes time.
Falling

All it takes is a slippery slope or a momentary lapse of attention.

  • Keep away from the edge.
  • Avoid slippery patches on trails and rocky areas adjacent to canyons, waterfalls and streams.
  • Heed warning signs, and stay behind safety fences.
  • Be aware that high elevation trails may be covered by snow or ice until mid-summer.
  • Falling into a crevasse can be fatal; glacier travel should only be attempted by experienced and properly equipped mountaineers.
Rock and ice
  • There is a lot of loose rock in the Rocky Mountains. Be alert for rockfall whenever you are in steep terrain.
  • Glacier ice on steep slopes or cliff edges can collapse at any time. Do not walk on or beneath overhanging ice or snow.
Avalanche

Avalanche information

The following are some basic guidelines:

  • Drivers should avoid stopping in posted avalanche zones.
  • Many of the backcountry trails travel through avalanche-prone terrain and require a skill-set for evaluating avalanche risk. Backcountry skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers and hikers should be well informed about the type of terrain they will encounter when embarking on a backcountry trip in the winter.
  • Travel in avalanche prone terrain also requires the use of specialized equipment (avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel). Use of this equipment requires practice, and instruction from a skilled user.
  • Avalanche Bulletin
  • The National Parks backcountry is managed as a natural area, and as such many natural hazards exist. Backcountry travellers are responsible for their own decisions and safety - becoming well informed is a good start.

New Standard of Care for Youth Groups in the backcountry
Effective immediately, new policies have been introduced for custodial groups planning backcountry travel in the mountain National Parks (Banff, Yoho, Kootenay, Jasper, Mt. Revelstoke, Glacier, and Waterton Lakes). These policies are in effect from November 15 - April 30 each year, and have evolved significantly since they were first introduced in April 2004.

Parks Canada has established a new standard of care, and custodial group leaders have new obligations and pre-trip planning considerations they must understand. Parks Canada’s goal is to encourage our youth to travel in their mountain parks, while at the same time receiving appropriate leadership in suitable locations. The information contained within these pages attempts to offer a strong resource for custodial groups who plan to undertake backcountry travel.

Drinking water

Though park waters are generally clean, there is always a chance that harmful bacteria or parasites may exist in untreated surface water. Boil and filter untreated water before using, or carry water from a treated water source.