So, I’m fresh off a night of watching films at the Banff Film festival with my wife, and something very important occurred to me while watching a film that was created about the Bow Valley, titled Living with Wildlife.

It was a film about the progress and leaps and bounds that we have made as a community in co-existing with wildlife of all types. What struck me while watching our community from a seat in an auditorium was that our front country has more potential for encounters and accidents than most back country areas. From bears, cougars, herds of elk, wolves and coyotes, avalanches, rockslides, floods and the moving waters of the Bow River, not to mention extreme sports being executed in every corner of the valley, we have some serious potential of being in or walking into the scene of an incident.

Now this is no doom and gloom situation we have here in the valley, its just our reality, so as locals why not be a little more prepared.

Most of us who venture off in the back country are pretty prepared with our gear and all the little emergency items like SPOT device, food and water, spare clothing, fire starter and so on. For many, myself included, the front country activities tend to bring a false sense of security. Being prepared for the front country is a bit different then the backcountry, but it still involves conscious planning and a small amount of kit. Here are a few key tips to consider while skiing, running, hiking, or biking in the front country.


  • Make sure your cell phone is charged. 911 is just a phone call away, but with a dead cell phone offering care to an accident victim can be tricky. Your phone can also be triangulated with GPS to locate you and any victim.
  • Tell someone where your going and what time to expect you to be back.
  • Take a basic CPR & First aid course. You never know when these skills will come in handy.

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  • Carry a spare jacket
  • Carry bear spray all year long; works well on coyotes, wolves and other animals in a pinch
  • Small first aid kit
  • H2O and a high calorie bar or snack that will not freeze
  • Whistle to make noise and call for vicinity help
  • Tiny light in the fall, winter, and early spring when light is limited
  • Emergency blanket or Bivy (best invention ever) with a spare jacket on a person can stay nice and warm till EMS arrives

It’s not uncommon to need the supplies in your small pack for non-emergencies that you might encounter within your party. It is, however, becoming more common that we are encountering visitors to the valley that are venturing out very unprepared. A short, day hike in the Rockies in bad weather can lead to a number of situations and your front country preparedness may just help rescue a visitor or come in handy when you or a friend need it most.