For 40 years Whistler’s Search and Rescue team has been getting adventure seeking locals and visitors out of dangerous situations.
This fall the volunteer non-profit group is set to mark that milestone anniversary with its annual Wine’d Up gourmet dinner fundraiser on Oct. 13.
“Wine'd Up is the single largest source of revenue for our very busy volunteer Team,” said Founding Member and Director of WSAR Brad Sills. “Without the support of all the persons who contribute to making this event the success that it is, Whistler SAR would simply not be in a position to fulfill its mandate. The sheer cost of maintaining rescue quality equipment and training regimes is a constant burden in the face of uncertain funding sources. We are all so privileged to live in a community that recognizes the need for this service.”
It was becoming apparent in the early ‘70s, he said, that there was a need for mountain experienced group of people to assist those who found themselves in trouble in the backcountry. After a tragic multi-fatality avalanche on Whistler Mountain in 1973 the group was formed.
“Out of that a number of people with mountaineering experience banded together out of a common interest,” Sills said adding at that time Whistler was very rural and help was not always available.
The team started small, he said, but has grown very tight with 25 members and an average tenure of 15 years. SAR averages 35 calls a year that they respond to in the field and well over 100 requests for assistance.
“It is a unique volunteer team in that more than half of the members are mountain professionals – they are mountain guides, professional ski patrollers or work in the mountains in come capacity,” he said. “It is probably one of the more if not the most stable search and rescue team in the province out of 82.”
The team trains every Tuesday, since 1976 said Sills, and its strength is in alpine seach and rescue.
“We work very closely with our neighbours on either side in Squamish and Pemberton and rely upon them for strengths in other areas,” he added.
Sills said over the past 40 years technology has changed the face or search and rescue along with newer activities like extreme skiing, snowmobiling, hang gliding and mountain biking.
“The biggest single issue is the increasing call volume and the increasing seriousness of the calls,” he said. “Not only are there more people in the back country, but they are engaged in sports that carry higher risks.”
Search and rescue groups in B.C. are not provincially funded and rely upon donations to remain operational. Sills said in Whistler the Wine’d Up event is its major fundraiser where the community bends over backwards to assist SAR.
It is the 13th annual event this year with five of Whistler’s executive chefs returning to each create a dish that complements the selection of wines donated by the Wagner Family of Wine this year.
Tickets are $160 + HST and go on sale Sept. 1. For tickets call Whistler Blackcomb at 1-800-766-0449.