NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C. -- The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we do pretty much everything, and with colder weather fast approaching, it appears that includes preparing for winter. Outdoor equipment is flying off store shelves, with cold-weather gear among the hottest items right now.

"It’s been quite a marked change from the normal August and early September sales," said Paul Zirk, general manager of The Destination Slope and Surf Outfitters in North Vancouver. "It’s been really up and it's been really focused on winter sports. This year, our track as far back as mid-July was ski-focused and winter-focused and at some weeks triple what we expected."

When the pandemic first hit, Canadians were forced to stay inside and our buying habits quickly turned to home workout equipment. Then, when we were told it was safe to venture out, we started snapping up all sorts of outdoor gear, including kayaks and paddleboards. Now, it’s all about staying active, even as the snow starts to fly.

"We are really seeing people who are trying to extend the outdoors basically well into the fall and beyond," said Michael LeBlanc, senior advisor at the Retail Council of Canada. “We’re seeing that demand from coast to coast.”

But the winter season has the potential to be a lot more dangerous than summer. The temperature is colder, the terrain can also be a lot more treacherous, and if you’re not prepared you could find yourself in trouble.

"We need everybody to be prepared no matter if it's spring, summer, winter or fall," said Sandra Riches, executive director of BC AdventureSmart. "With winter, we want you to have the right skills and abilities to do the activities that you've chosen to do."

AdventureSmart is a national prevention program focused on reaching Canadians – and visitors to Canada – who participate in outdoor recreation activities. The B.C. branch of AdventureSmart is closely associated with the BC Search and Rescue Association, to help keep people safe in the wilderness. The program focuses on outdoor education to give people the knowledge they need to enjoy the outdoors in a safe manner.

“It's not to scare anyone away, but you do have a responsibility to be adventure smart," said Riches.

At Zirk’s North Vancouver ski store, he also takes it upon himself to warn novice adventurers about the risks of travelling too far away from a marked ski run or snowshoe trail.

"If you venture too far off the beaten path you most definitely will be off the beaten path and you don't really know what you're in for," said Zirk.

For more information on BC AdventureSmart, go to its website.