Canadian Avalanche Centre Annual Report 2011-12

Page 1

2011-12 Annual Report A Year of Collaboration


02 A Message from the Executive Director 03 A Message from the President 04 Our Community Stakeholders Sponsors Supporters and Donors

12 Public Avalanche Warning Service 16 Education Avalanche Skills Training Companion Rescue Skills

18 Communications and Outreach 24 Special Projects Mountain Snowmobile Education Avalanche Terrain Ratings

27 Financial Summary 28 2011-12 Avalanche Fatality Statistics 30 Looking Forward 31 Our People Board of Directors Staff Image: Graham Helfrick

Vision To be a publicly recognized leader in public avalanche safety awareness, education, products and services

Mission Statement To provide leadership, development, communication, coordination and delivery of public avalanche safety products and services through a collaborative, diverse and multilevel network. To serve as Canada's national public avalanche safety organization by: • Coordinating public avalanche

safety programs; • Providing a public avalanche

warning system; • Delivering public avalanche awareness

and education programs; • Providing avalanche related training to

amateur backcountry recreationists; • Being the point of contact for public,

private and government avalanche information; and • Encouraging avalanche research.


A Message from the Executive Director The season of 2011-12 has been one of change for the CAC. A key member of our team, Operations Manager John Kelly, has taken a two-year leave to pursue a graduate degree at Simon Fraser University. His skills and expertise have been missed and we wish him the best in his pursuits. That transition has brought new staff, with new skill sets leading to new opportunities and some significant accomplishments. Our team has grown significantly, and so has our ability to respond to the ongoing demands to improve public avalanche safety programs in this country. This year marked a key turning point in how we communicate avalanche hazard to the public. We implemented the new AvalX forecasting software developed by Parks Canada, which establishes a new inter-agency standard for public avalanche information. AvalX ushers in a new era of public avalanche safety, allowing the CAC to increase the number of our forecast regions from seven to 12 and giving our forecasters an improved array of tools to communicate with users. The AvalX development team was led by Grant Statham of Parks Canada and the CAC’s Public Avalanche Warning

Services Manager Karl Klassen. This software has already attracted international attention and we look forward to seeing its use expand. Our organization is maturing and our relationships and partnerships, so important to the network of public avalanche safety programs in this country, have never been stronger. We’ve established strong services in many mountainous regions in the west. Now our attention is turning to addressing long-standing needs in other parts of Canada. This includes increased collaboration with our forecasting partners in Quebec and on Vancouver Island, and helping our colleagues in Newfoundland, Yukon and parts of BC that still don't have even basic avalanche conditions reports. There are exciting times ahead and we feel very fortunate to be working with our many wonderful partners. We are grateful to the individuals and agencies that have helped us get the CAC to where it is today—a strong, vibrant non-profit providing essential public avalanche safety programs and services to Canadians and visitors to our country. Ian Tomm, Executive Director

Image: Silas Patterson

A Message from the President The Canadian Avalanche Centre has accomplished great things in its short existence, and as the Board of Directors looks forward we wonder what else is possible. We have great assets: an amazing, competent staff; the support and understanding of related government agencies; and a strong endorsement from the avalanche industry and winter recreation community. We continue to build public awareness of the organization and its contribution to the safety of people who travel in avalanche terrain. Since the CAC board struck out on its own from the Canadian Avalanche Association in September 2011, our short term goals have included electing an interim board, defining our organizational structure, creating advisory committees, and planning for the AGM. Now it is time to look at the long-term future. What skills do we need on a long-term board? What is the CAC’s vision? How can we strategically ensure a stable, sustainable organization? What is our membership structure, and what are our member benefits? These are important, exciting thoughts. The CAC is in a well-established, wellsupported position. We are a world leader in public avalanche safety, and provide an excellent, necessary service. While we can’t bring avalanche accidents to zero, we are creating an educated recreational community that makes intelligent and informed travel decisions. Life is good. Ross Cloutier, President


Our Community

Government Stakeholders The Canadian Avalanche Foundation

The Canadian Avalanche Foundation (CAF) was formed in 1999 to provide a tax-deductible fundraising mechanism for the support of public avalanche safety initiatives in Canada. The CAF is a tremendous supporter of the CAC; since 1999, they have provided over $1,400,000 in support of public avalanche safety, education and research.

At the CAF, we are passionate about avalanche safety. Gordon Ritchie, CAF President

The CAC is thankful for support from the following government ministries and departments:

Government of British Columbia

Government of Canada

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure

Environment Canada Meteorological Service of Canada Parks Canada

Ministry of Justice Emergency Management BC Coroners Service

Ministry of National Defense National Search and Rescue Secretariat

Ministry of Energy and Mines Gaming Policy and Enforcement

Ministry of Public Safety RCMP

Ministry of Natural Resources and Operations Recreation Sites and Trails GeoBC Ministry of the Environment BC Parks Ministry of Labour, Citizens' Services and Open Government DataBC

Learn more about the CAF at

Government of Alberta Ministry of Tourism, Parks and Recreation

Sponsors Our sponsors are a vital piece of Canada’s public avalanche safety net. We rely on sponsor funding for our Public Avalanche Warning Service, public outreach and many education programs.

Presenting Sponsors

Avalanche Awareness Days

Backcountry Avalanche Workshop Series

Avalanche Skills Training Program

Companion Rescue Skills Training and the South Rockies Field Program

AST Snowmobile Program


Our Community

Stellar Sponsor

Supporting Sponsors

Contributing Sponsors Alberta Motor Association (AMA) Innate Gear Kootenay Mountain Culture and Coast Mountain Culture magazines.

At ABS Avalanche Rescue Devices Inc. we consider our partnership with the Canadian Avalanche Centre to be one of our most valuable. No other organization provides us both with a vehicle to get the “stay on top to stay alive” message out and the professional and ethical clout to legitimize our story. This is all accomplished with the confidence and camaraderie you would expect from a good friend. Steve Wagner, CEO ABS Avalanche Rescue Devices Inc.

We proudly support the important, lifesaving work that takes place at the CAC every day. We know and understand the value of the CAC and are confident in them. We look forward to continuing our relationship, and to getting vital information to those who need it.

20 Years of Public Avalanche Forecasting 2011 marked a milestone in avalanche safety—20 years of public avalanche forecasting for backcountry areas outside national parks in Canada. We would like to thank the InfoEx subscribers and their front line workers for the contributions that have made two decades of public avalanche forecasts possible.

Chris Brookes, Executive Director Alberta Snowmobile Association

Over the past ten years, we have worked with the CAC to educate professional athletes and snow enthusiasts so they can safely explore new boundaries and never stop exploring. We are proud to continue our association with such a dedicated group of snow safety specialists. Jessica Starkey, Marketing Coordinator The North Face


Our Community

CAC Supporters These people and organizations are Supporter Members, which gives them a representative on the CAC Board of Directors. The annual fee for Supporter membership is $200, a contribution that is applied directly to CAC core programs. Thank you for your support of public avalanche safety. A.I. Mears, P.E., Inc. ABS Avalanche Rescue Devices Inc. Agostino, Guarienti Alberta Snowmobile Association Alpine Club of Canada American Avalanche Association Apex Mountain Resort Association of Canadian Mountain Guides Austin Powder Ltd Ava Terra Services Inc. Avalanche Safety Solutions Avatek Mountain Systems Ltd. Backcountry Access L.L.C. Baldface Mountain Lodge Baldwin, John BC Snowmobile Federation Bella Coola Heli Sports Bissonette, Don and Deanne Black Bull Enterprises Blue River Powder Packers Brooks-Range Mountaineering Equipment Co. Bulkey Backcountry Ski Society Campbell Icefield Chalet Ltd. Canada West Mountain Schools Inc. Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association Canadian Mountain Holidays Inc. Canadian Ski Guide Association Canadian Ski Patrol System Cariboo Helicopter Skiing Ltd. Carleton Rescue Equipment Castle Mountain Resort Coast Range Heliskiing College of the Rockies Coquihalla Summit Snowmobile Club Crowfoot Mountain Snowmobile Club Demuth, Mike District of Elkford Search and Rescue Society

Downer EDI Works Ltd. Dynamic Avalanche Consulting Ltd. Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club East Kootenay Community Credit Union Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC Fédération Québécoise de la Montagne et de l'Escalade Fernie Wilderness Adventures G3-Genuine Guide Gear Geological Survey of Canada - Glaciology Gigliotti, Mike Global Mountain Solutions Inc Golden & District Search and Rescue Golden Alpine Holidays Grouse Mountain Resorts Ltd. Halcol Construction, Ltd HeliCat Canada Association Icelandic Meterological Office Infomagnetics Technologies Corporation Island Lake Resort Group Inc. Justice Institute of BC Kamloops Snowmobile Association Kananaskis Country Kelley's Sports International Kicking Horse Mountain Resort Kusumoto, Tom Last Frontier Heliskiing Louisiana Pacific Canada Engineered Wood Products Ltd. Marmot Basin Ski Lifts Mica Heli Guides Ltd. Monashee Powder Snowcats Mount Washington Ski Resort Ltd. Mt. Remo Backcountry Society Mustang Powder Lodge Nelson Search and Rescue New Zealand Mountain Safety Council Northwest Avalanche Solutions Ltd Orica Inc

Ortovox Canada Oso Negro Coffee Panorama Mountain Village, Avalanche Protection Program Pieps Canada Powder Creek Lodge Powder Mountain Snowmobile Club Powdercloud Software Professional Association of Wilderness Guides and Instructors Recco Rescue System - North America Recreation Outfitters Inc. Resorts of the Canadian Rockies Lake Louise Div. Retallack Rio Tinto Alcan Schultz Motorsports SEAR Search & Rescue Equipment Selkirk Tangiers Helicopter Skiing Ltd. Signaux Evan Signals Ltd. Silver Star Mountain Resort Ski Banff @ Norquay Skookum Cycle & Ski Slocan Valley Snowmobile Association Snowline Associates Ltd. Snowwater Heli-Skiing Inc Sorcerer Lodge Sportech Marketing Ltd. Technologie Alpine de Sécurité SA Tembec Industries Inc. Terrafor Resources Ltd. Thompson Rivers University University of Calgary Outdoor Program Valkyr Adventures Valemount Area Recreation Development Association Waldroff, Sherry Whistler Blackcomb Whitewater Ski Resorts Ltd. WorkSafe BC

CAC Donors The following are people and organizations who have donated to the CAC this year.

Become a Sponsor Today

Alpine Club of Canada – Banff Anderson, Meghan Apex Mountain Resort Avalanche Knitters Big White Ski Resort Blouin, Paul Blue River Powder Packers Snowmobile Club Bourden, Yann Bow Cycle & Motor Co Calgary Snowmobile Club Candles to Remember, Sherri Waldroff Canuck Splitfest Carmen, Donald Castillo, Quinn Chevron Canada City of Fernie Coquihalla Summit Snowmobile Club Cousineau, Lucie Crowfoot Mountain Snowmobile Club Davies, Brian Den Ouden, Sean Dennett, Ronald C Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club East Kootenay Community Credit Union Flynn, James A Freer, Geoff Ghiz, Isaac

Are you interested in becoming a CAC sponsor and making a difference in public avalanche safety? Contact Sponsorship and Marketing Coordinator Jennifer George at

Hughes, Tyler Hunters Range Snowmobile Association Interlakes Snowmobile Club Japanese Community of Vancouver Kelowna Yamaha Mader, Timothy Marshall, John McNeil, Robert (Drifter Projects) Merritt Snowmobile Club Mountain Washington Ski Resort Nakiska Mountain Resort Pemberton Valley Snowmobile Club Powder Mountain Snowmobile Club Renner, Natalie Resorts of the Canadian Rockeis Fernie Alpine Resort Revelstoke Snowmobile Club Rutherford, Dave Snowmobile Revelstoke Society Sunshine Village Ski Resort Team Thunderstruck Teck's Sledhead Think Tanks University of British Columbia Varsity Outdoor Club Valemount Area Recreation Development Association Wheatley, Alan Wheeler, Paul and the Grande Prairie Fundraising Group

Learn more at /cac/sponsors


Our Community

CAC Service Awards

Association of BC Snowmobile Clubs’ "Buck-A-Day" Program

Each spring, we present CAC Service Awards to individuals or organizations demonstrating a significant commitment to public avalanche safety in Canada.These were the winners in 2011.

This year, the Association of BC Snowmobile Clubs (ABCSC) raised $42,195 with its “BuckA-Day” program. Member clubs contribute one dollar from every trail fee charged to support the CAC’s core avalanche safety programming, the build-out of new forecast regions, and the snowmobile program coordinator.

ers Bill Marshall is the Director of Recreation Sites and Trails BC, the main funder of the CAC’s Terrain Mapping project. Through Bill’s leadership and vision, this project is setting a new standard for communicating avalanche hazard in the backcountry. Al Hodgson is the President of the Association of BC Snowmobile Clubs. Al was recognized for his leadership in uniting the member clubs of his association to support improved avalanche safety for snowmobiling in Canada.

ABCSC Member Clubs Valemount Area Recreation Development Association Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club Crowfoot Mountain Snowmobile Club Blue River Powder Packers Hunters Range Snowmobile Association Coquihalla Summit Snowmobile Club Interlakes Snowmobile Club Merritt Snowmobile Club

InfoEx InfoEx is a uniquely Canadian service, with proven worth to the professional community while providing an invaluable contribution to public avalanche safety. Running continuously since 1991, InfoEx is a daily electronic exchange of technical snow, weather, avalanche and terrain data between avalanche workers. In cooperation with InfoEx subscribers, the CAA also donates this vital data to the CAC to produce and verify avalanche forecasts and reports. InfoEx is operated by the CAC’s sister organization, the Canadian Avalanche Association (CAA), which serves and supports Canada’s avalanche professionals. InfoEx subscribers are organizations and commercial businesses employing CAA Professional Members who manage avalanche hazards during the winter months (e.g. heli- and cat-skiing companies, BC Highways, ski areas, mountain parks). It’s difficult to quantify the true value of this donation; to gather a similar quantity and quality of data would be millions of dollars. The significance of this contribution to public avalanche safety by avalanche professionals and their employers cannot be overstated.

Image: Sylvain Hebert

Learn more at industry-services/infoex


Public Avalanche Warning Service

Avalanche Forecasting 1,413,230 20% Increase from 2010-11 in requests for public avalanche forecasts and reports Between April 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012.

Public avalanche forecasting is the foundation of the CAC. Our Public Avalanche Warning Service department consists of ten public avalanche forecasters, a forecast coordinator, a manager and four avalanche field technicians.

As an intermittent user with a growing aversion to unnecessary risks, I have to give your staff a big "thumbs up." As a researcher who deals with warnings and human factors, thanks for the effective translation of knowledge. C.T. Scialfa, Ph.D. Department of Psychology, University of Calgary

Daily avalanche forecasts and weekly avalanche reports are essential public avalanche safety products for winter backcountry users. Our forecasts are designed to help all recreational users of avalanche terrain. Forecasts help users understand the avalanche danger rating and the primary avalanche problems for their region. Twenty-three public avalanche warning products produced by six agencies are available to the public via • Fifteen CAC forecasts and reports in BC and AB • Parks Canada Banff/Kootenay/Yoho, Glacier, Waterton, Jasper • Kananskis Country, Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation • Whistler Backcountry, BC • Vancouver Island Avalanche Bulletin • Centre d’avalanche de la Haute Gaspésie

Learn more at /cac/bulletins

New for 2011-2012 In November, Parks Canada and the CAC launched the AvalX forecasting system and new icon-based avalanche forecasts. AvalX is custombuilt avalanche forecasting software developed by Parks Canada in collaboration with the CAC and Kananaskis Country. Our new icon-based, layered avalanche forecast format has received universally positive praise. Lots of graphics that clearly identify avalanche problems help users make informed decisions. AvalX’s efficiency let us expand from seven to twelve forecast regions. The South Coast region was split into South Coast – Inland and Sea to Sky; the South Rockies was split into South Rockies and the Lizard Range; the South Columbia was split into South Columbia and Purcells; and the North Columbia was split into Cariboos and Monashees & Selkirks. Also, a weekly avalanche report was added for the Yukon. We also launched four new products to help users know more: a Weekly Summary, Weather Outlook and Conditions outlook are published each week, and a Forecaster’s Blog is published as needed. Users get bigpicture data to help their decision-making. Easy integration of images and photos, along with RSS feed capability, will make these products even better next winter.

Learn more /bulletins/forecaster-blog /bulletins/weather-outlook /bulletins/weekly-summary /bulletins/conditions-outlook


Public Avalanche Warning Service

CAC Field Programs Thanks to Bombardier Recreational Products for loaning us a 2012 Summit X mountain sled for the 2011/12 winter, and to Yamaha for facilitating the purchase of a Nytro MTX mountain sled. Image above: Both machines were put to good use by the South Rockies field team— Gord Ohm (left) and Dave Tracz.

We are proud of our close alignment with the CAC. Randy Swenson Regional Manager for Yamaha-Motor Canada Ltd.

Presented by

The CAC’s traditional forecasting model is based on a centralized team issuing avalanche forecasts after analyzing data submitted by third-parties. This year that model evolved, marking a significant policy development and a major change in our scope of operations. Two-person field teams were deployed in both the South Rockies (with the financial support of Teck Resources Limited) and Klondike regions (in collaboration with Yukon Avalanche Association). These teams travelled by snowmobile, skis, and occasionally helicopter to collect weather, snowpack, and avalanche observation data. In addition to weekly study plot visits, they provided field observations collected throughout the region, followed up reports of avalanche incidents, and provided community outreach and education. Field teams provided daily “local conditions reports” for areas travelled that day. Supported by the teams’ observations and insights, forecasters in the Revelstoke office issued daily South Rockies Forecasts and weekly Yukon Regional Reports. Successes, challenges, and lessons learned from these programs will be invaluable for the future as the CAC considers other data- sparse regions such as the North Rockies, the interior of BC’s Northwest region, and the Bighorn region of Alberta.

Quebéc Each year, the CAC provides $10,000 of direct funding to our partner organization in Québec, the Centre d’avalanche de la Haute Gaspésie (CAHG), to help their public avalanche safety programs improve and evolve. This year, an extra $10,000 was contributed for translation services. This winter, we had a forecaster exchange with Quebec. Two CAHG forecasters came to Revelstoke for forecaster training in November, and in January CAC forecaster Peter Marshall went to Quebec. While he was there, he taught an AST 1 course to snowmobilers in the Chic Chocs, the first of its kind in the region.

Quebec’s first snowmobiling AST 1 course was held from Jan 18 – 27 in Mont-Louis. Image: Jean-Charles Fortin

This year for the first time, the CAC published weekly avalanche reports for the White Pass and Wheaton Valley areas, popular destinations for backcountry users in Whitehorse, Yukon. Image: Claude Vallier



Avalanche Skills Training Donating from the Heart My son Todd was buried in an avalanche while backcountry skiing with friends in 2008. He’s alive today because his friends had taken an Avalanche Skills Training course and knew exactly what to do. Since then, I’ve been fund-raising to help support the CAC so they can continue their work teaching people about avalanche safety.

The abilities to recognize avalanche terrain and to effectively rescue an avalanche victim are essential skills for winter backcountry users. The best way to learn those skills is through the CAC’s Avalanche Skills Training (AST) courses. The CAC designs the curriculum and produces instructional materials, videos and reference books to promote the most effective learning of this avalanche safety knowledge. These training materials are provided to a wide network of independent instructors, who teach courses as a small business or public service venture within their communities. AST 1 is designed to teach the basic fundamentals of avalanches, travelling in avalanche terrain and companion rescue. AST 2 increases knowledge of terrain choices, route finding and decision making in avalanche terrain.

AST Course Participants

Mary Weselake 7,000

Image above: Mary Weselake and CAC Executive Director Ian Tomm share a hug in Mary’s home in Fernie, BC. Mary is one of hundreds of individual donors for whom the CAC has made a world of difference. Image: Mary Clayton



1,000 07-08


AST 1 AST 2 Companion Rescue Skills Presented by




Companion Rescue Skills In the fall of 2011, the CAC rolled out the new, one-day Companion Rescue Skills course. The curriculum is designed to be suitable for any backcountry user who travels in avalanche terrain. This course was developed from a recommendation by the BC Coroners Service Death Review Panel report of January, 2010, which asked the CAC to specifically address companion rescue skills for recreationists. Instructor training was held in November and close to 300 courses were taught over the winter.

Learn more at training/ast/crs

Presented by Students in an Avalanche Skills Training course learn how to measure slope angle. The main focus of this level of training is learning how to identify avalanche terrain. Image: Kirstie Simpson 17

Communications and Outreach

Reaching Out Effective communications is integral to the work of the Canadian Avalanche Centre and our methods for reaching out to backcountry users, partners and stakeholders are always evolving. The biggest change over this past season was the increase in our use of social media, especially Facebook and Twitter. Engagement grew by leaps and bounds and social media is now a vital facet of our communication strategy. We use it to engage our followers with photos, videos, links and forecast information. It is also used to share Special Public Avalanche Warnings, and pertinent information from other public avalanche safety organizations. Videos generally have the most virality, and the explosion in popularity of helmet-mounted video cameras led to a variety of amateur avalanche videos making their way to the Internet this year. We also experimented with video messaging, which we posted on our own YouTube channel. These consisted of a few direct-to-camera monologues about current conditions, as well as a terrific informative video created by Forecast Coordinator Ilya Storm. We received a lot of positive feedback on these efforts and will be working to produce more next season. Our overall communications goal is to raise awareness of the need for avalanche education and increase the use of CAC programs and services by all backcountry users. During the winter season, our outreach focuses on extensive use of both traditional and new media to communicate current conditions.

Image: Chris Christie

Media Our communications aim this year was to increase the reach of our public safety messaging, through both traditional and new media outlets. The broadcast media remains one of our primary methods of communicating. The graph below reflects the spikes in media interest after avalanche accidents and after we issue Special Public Avalanche Warnings. We also used other strategies such as FaceBook, Twitter and our own YouTube channel. Media interest in avalanche safety remains very valuable to our communications strategy and our forecasters are often called to numerous interviews on busy days.

Interview Frequency 20

New Directions As we look forward to 2012-13, we plan to make video updates an important component of our avalanche awareness messaging. Video updates allow our public avalanche forecasters to quickly and effectively connect with users about rapidly changing conditions, special public avalanche warnings, and unique avalanche problems in specific regions.


Video updates— taped and edited in-house—help us reach even more backcountry users, and provide traditional media with sound bytes and information on avalanche problems.



0 Nov 2011

Feb 2012

April 2012

Subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up-to-date: user/Canadian AvalancheCtr


Communications and Outreach

Social Media Facebook YouTube CanadianAvalancheCtr

Facebook canadianavalanchecentre

The CAC’s fanbase on Facebook grew by 1800 people between April 1, 2011-March 31, 2012 to reach almost 5400. This was more than double the growth of 2010-11. Between April 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012, 41,201 visits to were referred from Facebook, and 4,165 visits were referred from Facebook’s mobile application. This is up 368% from 2010-11.

Twitter Twitter avalancheca

Between April 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012, Twitter fans increased from 502 to 1850. Follow us at @avalancheca. Twitter referred 3177 visits to, a 60% increase over last year.

YouTube The CAC created a YouTube account in 2011-12 to post special warnings about conditions when warranted. Together, CAC videos have received 5,511 views on YouTube.

Website Statistics Between April 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012, approximately 1,100,000 visits were made to from 275,000 visitors, with 3,500,000 page views. This is an improvement of nearly 20% from the 900,000 visits in 2010-11. This year, approximately 215,000 visits came from mobile devices, up from 109,661 in 2010-11—this is a growth of more than 95%. While the majority of visits were from an iPhone, almost 17,000 visits were through the Android operating system. An Android application is planned for 2012-13. The avalanche bulletins pages are the most viewed pages on our website. The incident report database was the next most viewed page, followed by the Forecaster’s blog, which was new this year.

Visitor Overview

Newfoundland Outreach The CAC has provided ongoing support of avalanche awareness initiatives in Newfoundland since 2006. In partnership with the Canadian Avalanche Foundation, our programs are targeting snowmobilers, skiers and youth. This winter, Public Avalanche Forecaster Cam Campbell visited Newfoundland to work on long-term public avalanche safety strategies. The CAC will be engaging local stakeholders to establish more services for backcountry users in the near future, including terrain mapping and trailhead signage.

We look forward to working with the CAC to promote avalanche awareness in Newfoundland.

Returning Visitors New Visitors

Keith Nicol, Associate Professor of Geography at Memorial University

Website Visitor Traffic 12,000


2,000 Jan 2012

Feb 2012

Mar 2012


Comminication and Outreach

Youth Avalanche Education Avalanche Awareness Days This winter, 40 communities around Canada held Avalanche Awareness Days events to promote winter backcountry education and safety through demonstrations, film viewings, speakers, info booths and more. Over $14,000 was raised to support the CAC’s public avalanche forecasts. Image above: The West Kootenay Snogoers celebrate AAD near Rossland, BC. Rick Woodhouse

If you would like to hold an event in your community next winter, visit /cac/events

Presented by

The CAC’s Youth Avalanche Education program creates materials to support teachers and other youth educators in the delivery of age-specific avalanche awareness and education.

I used a CAC avalanche safety Tool Box at the Kluane community school. Thank you so much for making these available. Teachers and students from grades 6 to 12 were enthusiastic about the opportunity to learn about avalanches. Emma Hansen, Public Outreach Education Officer, Kluane National Park and Reserve

We aim to be a “hub” of youth avalanche educational materials, coordinating educators and resources, and giving educators across the country online access to programs. We delivered avalanche awareness programs to more than 1,000 K – 12 students in Revelstoke and Golden this year. We also partnered with the city of Fernie and the Centre d'avalanche de La Haute-Gaspésie in Quebec to help deliver similar programs. This winter, 510 young people took an Avalanche Skills Training course; that is 8% of all AST participants.

Backcountry Avalanche Workshops In the late fall, our focus is on helping backcountry users prepare for the season with our Backcountry Avalanche Workshops. This year, the CAC held 15 free Backcountry Avalanche Workshops in 13 communities listed below. Over 1,250 people attended the two- and three-hour evening presentations, led by a CAC forecaster and local professionals offering practical knowledge and a highlight of CAC products. These workshops have been a tradition since 2004 and we look forward to their continued growth. • Calgary • Canmore • Chetwynd • Fernie • Grande Prairie • Jasper • Kelowna • Kamloops • Mackenzie • Nelson • Prince George • Rossland • Smithers Presented by A probe-line practice during a youth AST 1 course. These teens and their parents are learning the basics of companion rescue. Image: Brent Strand 23

Special Projects

Mountain Snowmobile Education Project After surviving an avalanche six years ago, I have strived to be a mentor within the mountain snowmobiling community. I am a Canadian Avalanche Association Active Member, a member of the CAC SledCom advisory committee, and I teach snowmobile-specific avalanche education courses to help others realize that riding hard and being safe don't need to be mutually exclusive. I am very grateful for the bursary I received from the Mountain Snowmobile Education Project to complete my CAA Avalanche Operations Level 2 course this winter. Jeremy Hanke, Owner Soulrides Avalanche Education

Find the survey at

The goal of this project is to reduce the number of avalanche fatalities among mountain snowmobilers through improved communications and targeted avalanche awareness initiatives.

A better understanding of how mountain snowmobilers perceive avalanche hazard and how they decide where to ride will help us improve avalanche awareness messages for snowmobile riders. Pascal Haegeli, Lead Researcher

The project was officially launched in Fernie in January, 2012, with three levels of government present to show support for the initiative. The objective is to expand and enhance snowmobiler avalanche awareness, education and outreach using targeting advertising; developing new materials and resources to reach mountain snowmobilers using research findings; and expanding technical expertise within the snowmobiling community. The CAC and Emergency Management BC are one year into this three-year project funded by the National Search and Rescue Secretariat New Initiatives Funding program.

Meet the Project Coordinator Snowmobile Program Coordinator Carole Savage is thrilled about coordinating the Mountain Snowmobile Education Project. Her accomplishments are many: Carole is member of the CAC’s SledCom advisory group, an active AST provider, past president of the Golden Snowmobile Club, past associate director of the British Columbia Snowmobile Federation, past Director of the Tourism Action Society of the Kootenays, a founding member of the Golden Snowmobile Trail society, and presenter of BRP’s Avalanche Awareness Seminars in 2010 and 2011. In 2012, Carole completed her CAA Avalanche Operations Level 2, and won the BRP Award of Excellence for her avalanche awareness work in the snowmobile community.

Like putting a ‘turbo’ on a sled, the results of the project will take mountain snowmobiler avalanche awareness to a whole new level. Carole Savage, Project Coordinator

Image: Rob Alford


Special Projects

Big Bell Mtn

tosh Cre

Decision Point

ek Boreal Cr e

Little Bell Mtn Lower Meadows

Decision Point

Concern Going lower exposes you to steeper terrain. Careful monitoring of slope angle is necessary. Managing risk Going up is your best option to reduce your exposure to avalanche terrain.

Avalanche Terrain Ratings The Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES) is used to classify terrain by its potential exposure to avalanches.

The application of the ATES rating system and the ATES map signage is one of greatest advancements in snowmobile avalanche safety. This program will save lives every year. Al Hodgson, President Association of British Columbia Snowmobile Clubs


Concern This area has steep avalanche terrain on three sides. Managing risk Avoid entry to this area unless avalanche danger is Low.

The Burn

In Mc

The CAC is in the middle of a four-year project to map all of BC’s provincially managed snowmobile recreation areas using the three-level ATES system. Zoning the terrain as simple, challenging or complex helps users understand the nature of avalanche terrain and choose a trip with the appropriate level of exposure for the current conditions. This landmark project is funded by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Recreation Sites & Trails. Running from 2010 – 2014, approximately 90 managed snowmobile areas in the province will eventually be mapped. The maps are then used in decision-making aids such as signs, brochures and the Online Trip Planner, which guide users on trip selection using the current danger rating and the Avaluator Trip Planner. This winter, the CAC also received funding from BC Parks’ Community Legacy Program to carry out similar mapping in over 21,000 hectares of backcountry skiing terrain in Kokanee Glacier, West Arm and Stagleap Provincial Parks.

Financial Summary


CAC revenue during 2010-11 increased 19% to $1,307,746.50 though a combination of direct public sector funding at the federal and provincial levels, private donations, funding from the Canadian Avalanche Foundation, retail sales, special projects, and more. Yearly expenses totaled $1,192,617.56, resulting in an operational reserve of $115,128.94. An operational reserve is essential for a non-profit, to serve as a buffer for unanticipated expenses, or additional services and projects next year.

$501,974 04-05

Expenses by Category



Operating Revenue by Source






Project Revenue



Recreation Sites & Trails ATES

Office & Overhead




Canadian Avalanche Foundation

SAR NIF Mountain Snowmobile

Board Expenses

Project Income

Education Project


BC Government

BC Parks ATES Ratings


Federal Government

BC Parks ATES Ratings Project II


Alberta Government





Retail Sales Recovered Costs Membership Dues Other Total

$1,307,747 27

2011-12 Avalanche Fatality Statistics

Canadian Fatal Avalanches Increasing Backcountry Use

124% Backcountry Skiers 7,445 in 2009 16,663 in 2012 Data from Rogers Pass, Glacier National Park

Ten people were killed in nine avalanche accidents during the 2011-12 avalanche season. Ten fatalities is below the ten-year trailing average of 14.1 per year, which remains steady. Nine fatal events are below the ten-year trailing average of ten accidents per year. All fatal accidents occurred in BC. Four of the fatalities (40%) were mechanized skiers (under the care of a professional decision-maker); the following comments exclude these data. Of the six unguided recreationists, three (50%) were snowmobilers, two (33%) were backcountry skiers and one (17%) was an out-of bounds rider. Fatal events were evenly distributed between the Coast Range, Columbia Mountains and Rocky Mountains. One fatal event occurred in a location without a public avalanche forecast. Two fatalities (40%) occurred with a forecast danger rating of High while for three (60%) the forecast danger rating was Considerable. Sadly, one victim had an avalanche transceiver on his person that was not turned on. Over the past ten years, two user groups account for 70% of avalanche fatalities—42% snowmobilers, 28% backcountry skiers. The graph on the right shows the five-year trailing averages for these two user groups. Two encouraging markers are worth noting: (1) the snowmobile trend line remained steady this winter; and (2) there were no multifatality events involving either of these groups.






















Data from snowmobile clubs in: Valemount Revelstoke Sicamous Squamish



42,367 in 2009 48,265 in 2012

Annual Avalanche Fatalities in Canada Showing 10 Year Trailing Average



Five Year Trailing Average of Backcountry Skier and Snowmobiler Fatalities 8

Putting it into Perspective Thoughts on Avalanche Fatality Statistics



Not everything that counts can be counted












Backcountry Skiing (self propelled) Snowmobiling

How do we measure the effectiveness of our public avalanche safety programs? While fatality trends may be an obvious metric, those numbers don’t tell the whole story because we have no way of knowing the total number of backcountry users. Without that data, we can’t know the true accident rate— the number of accidents in comparison with the number of users.
















Backcountry use is on the rise. The numbers shown on the page opposite provide only a glimpse of the vast extent of recreational backcountry use. With data provided by a few areas in BC that monitor use, we can clearly see the rising trend in both backcountry skiing and snowmobiling. This helps us understand that the relatively stable trend in avalanche fatalities reflects positively on our efforts. Through awareness and education, we are encouraging respectful and responsible use of Canada’s magnificent winter mountain terrain.


Looking Forward

Membership Drive If you’re a backcountry user, the CAC has probably had an impact on you. A strong, vibrant membership base demonstrates to industry, the public and government that public avalanche safety is a vital aspect of the Canadian recreational mosaic. The CAC Board of Directors is developing strategies to engage the public, and encourage tens of thousands of Canadians to support what the CAC stands for by becoming members. Every member makes a difference. Members have voting rights at the Annual General Meeting, receive the CAC newsletter, and can run for a seat on the board of directors. Are you a CAC member yet? Join today.

Exploring Solutions Public avalanche safety programs in new regions There are many areas in Canada with a history of recreational backcountry use but lacking public avalanche safety information. The main challenge for these areas is the lack of a reliable stream of professional-quality data on snow, weather and avalanches. Goals for the future for these regions include focusing on building relationships to determine specific needs and improving public avalanche safety information and services. Working with stakeholders, we hope to develop public avalanche safety information customized for individual regions.

Learn more at membership

Image: Jonathan Reich

CAC Board of Directors

CAC Staff

President Ross Cloutier

Executive Director Ian Tomm

Vice-President Dan Markham

Public Avalanche Warning Service Manager Karl Klassen

Secretary/Treasurer Kevin Seel Directors Mike Boissonneault John Hetherington Scott Hicks Jim McAllister Curtis Pawliuk

Public Avalanche Warning Service Forecast Coordinator Ilya Storm Communications Director Mary Clayton Sponsorship and Marketing Jennifer George Program Services Coordinator Nancy Geismar Public Avalanche Forecasters Mark Bender, Cam Campbell, James Floyer, Penny Goddard, Grant Helgeson, Joe Lammers, Peter Marshall, Matt Peter, Tom Riley, Shannon Werner Youth Education Coordinator Bridget Daughney Managing Editor Karilyn Kempton Publications and Graphics Brent Strand Information Technology Director Kristina Welch Information Technology Support Amanda Austin Field Technicians Gordon Ohm, Dave Tracz, Eirik Sharp, Justin Abbiss Reception DeeDee Eresman


Canadian Avalanche Centre Box 2759, 110 MacKenzie Ave Revelstoke BC Canada  V0E 2S0 Tel. 250.837.2141 Fax 866.366.2094

Image: Chris Christie

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