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IN the spring of 2010, North Shore Rescue began conducting a new yearly training exercise that has an interesting twist.
The operation, dubbed Snowman, involves the rescue of approximately a dozen people caught in an avalanche in some remote corner of the North Shore backcountry.
"Basically, half the victims have died, and the other half are all critically injured, " says Tim Jones, team leader for the volunteer group that provides life-saving services for people who venture into the North Shore mountains. "We have to then get into triage and evacuation."
The unique part of the exercise has to do with the identity of the victims. North Shore Rescue conducts Snowman with a particular group in mind: snowshoers.
It's not a random choice, and it's not some far-fetched scenario that'll likely never happen. In fact, Jones says he's surprised something like this hasn't happened here already.
"Knock on wood. We haven't had this happen yet. But from what we've observed, we can't understand why. We're planning for a worst-case scenario that actually has some validity."
Long considered the domain of fur traders and forest rangers, snowshoeing has exploded in popularity in recent years. But that growth comes at a price, and people may end up paying with their lives if calls for snowshoe safety in the backcountry go unheeded.