The Outsider: Why it’s time you did a first aid course

Vince Shuley / Whistler Question September 21, 2015 07:12 PM

Learning to respond to medical emergencies in the backcountry is an important step in outdoor education. The term “first aid course” doesn’t exactly turn up the cool factor. Mountain dwellers would rather spend their well­earned money on an avalanche course, a ski mountaineering course or something even more specialized like crevasse rescue or ropes rescue. Any of those course enrollments are a conversation starter, but a first aid course sounds about as exciting as heading back to school with the kids this month. But while first aid courses might be more attractive to parents living in the suburbs (in case their kids get hurt around the house), in a place like Whistler it’s more important than anywhere else for members of the community to have the proper training if one of their friends get hurt. Ski patrol is only a call away when riding in the resort, true. But it’s not always as simple as a patroller and toboggan skiing straight up to you like they can in the terrain park or on the groomers. If the injury is in what the professional responders term “Category 3” (possible loss of life or limb) then every second counts. I’m not going to try to summarize the content of a first aid course in the space of this column, but I will say this: if you like to spend time on the mountain or in the backcountry doing rad things, then you should have a minimal level of training in how to keep someone alive. That means taking a first aid course and learning the latest techniques for administering CPR and using a defibrillator. There are quite a few levels of training in this field, so let’s take a look at what’s the most appropriate for you: Standard First Aid (16 hours, $155 ­ $175) This is the two­day course where people generally get their first level of training. CPR and AED training is included and participants learn how to treat airway, breathing and circulation emergencies (that ABC acronym will become very familiar) as well as head and spine injuries, bone muscle and joint injuries and wounds. This course is a prerequisite for many non­mechanized outdoor tour guide jobs. Some course providers will offer an 9/23/2015 The Outsider: Why it’s time you did a first aid course­outsider­why­it­s­time­you­did­a­first­aid­course­1.2065072 2/2 introductory wilderness first aid course (20 hours, $180­$240) with a focus on improvising first aid supplies in the field. Advanced Wilderness First Aid (40 hours, $450 ­ $475) This four­day course designed by Sirius Wilderness Medicine is the minimum standard for outdoor professionals, guides and instructors who work in a wilderness setting. The above mentioned subjects are all covered in more detail under the pretence that hospital care is not immediately available. If you’re spending multiple days in the backcountry, someone in your group should have this level of training. Outdoor Emergency Care (OEC), Wilderness First Responder (WFR), Occupational First Aid (OFA) Level 3 (80 hours, $825 ­ $1050) If you’re looking to start a career in the guiding industry or ski patrol, these two­week intensive courses are where you begin your training. Traditionally the OEC (designed by National Ski Patrol in the U.S.) has been most suited to ski patrol jobs, WFR is best for outdoor guiding (with additions like evacuation procedures) and OFA is the standard for workplaces in urban environments. However, some employers prefer OFA because of WorkSafe BC regulations. These courses are a big investment in time and money, but are incredibly comprehensive in what they cover and the text books serve as an excellent reference source on the book shelf. OFA can also land you jobs on industrial sites if you’re looking for shoulder season work.


An interesting article to show the differences in a first aid course in Canberra and a first aid course in Canada. Obviously Whistler being an adventure capital of the world the first aid likeliness would be higher but also could be more serious. If you want to do a first aid course in Canberra make sure you book in with Canberra First Aid.

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