Avalanche Canada 2019 Annual Report

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2018-19 Annual Report


02 Message from the President 03 Message from the Executive Director 04 Communications Communicating Change Glossary Project Social Media Avalanche Ambassadors

12 Our Community Conferences Avalanche QuĂŠbec BC Gaming Capital Grant Service Awards Fundraising

20 Public Avalanche Warning Service Newfoundland AvID Update New Mobile App Mountain Information Network Research Yukon Program South Rockies Field Team

26 Education and Outreach Avalanche Canada Training Programs AST Handbook Dangerator Video Youth Programs Outreach Snowmobile Outreach

34 Avalanche Fatalities 36 Financial Summary 38 Funding Partners 41 Looking Ahead 42 Our People 43 Avalanche Canada Foundation Message from the President Fundraising Grants and Awards Financial Summary Supporters and Sponsors

Image: Raven Eye Photography

Vision To eliminate avalanche fatalities and injuries in Canada.

Mission To minimize public risk in avalanche terrain by providing leadership, development, communication, coordination and delivery of public avalanche safety education, warnings, products and services.

Values • We are committed to awareness, training and safety for the general public and for all who travel in avalanche terrain. • We are an inclusive and diverse organization that provides services to all winter recreation activity participants. • We strive to ensure that all programs, services and materials are based on accurate research and evidence. • We engage in strategic relationships and alliances to further the reach of our programs and messages. • We investigate to understand all factors that contribute to human incidents in avalanche terrain and support that investigation by encouraging research. • We inspire people to safely enjoy recreation and travel in the winter backcountry environment. • We value our staff and community’s collective strength, energy and leadership. • We create a fun, healthy, professional and sustainable workplace, and provide our staff with opportunities to grow and thrive. Cover Image: Backcountry terrain in Newfoundland & Labrador. We are excited to start providing public avalanche safety programs for this province. Image: Mark Bender

• We anticipate and respond to challenges and changes with creativity, collaboration, courage and bold enthusiasm.


A Message from the President If you are reading this annual report, I'm pretty sure you are also aware that Avalanche Canada received a one-time endowment of $25 million from the federal government last fall. Although the announcement was made in November 2018, we did not receive the funds until almost seven months later, after having undergone several rounds of due diligence by the federal finance committee. The endowment funds were received by the Avalanche Canada Foundation to be held in trust for the sole use of Avalanche Canada. As expected, there are many strings attached, including the requirement for the funds to be invested in very low-risk portfolios, directed by a professional investment committee with external oversight. Being held to a lowinvestment return means we will be spending down the principal much faster than we would under a higher return investment scenario. We are also prohibited to use the funds for certain capital investment, such as building improvements. Also, a portion of the funds must go to Avalanche Quebec, our partner in delivering programs to that province and further east, and who will help us fulfill our obligation for bilingualism. We have committed to make the endowment last as long as possible; a minimum of 10 years and preferably up to 15. Given that our original proposal to the federal government was $5 million per year for five years, meeting this requirement means we need to constrain our expansion and be very strategic about what happens where. Regardless, it will take very prudent fiscal management to make the funds last for 10 years on its own. We had intended these federal funds to be met with similar multi-year commitments from BC, Alberta, Quebec, and the Yukon. We have had numerous conversations with these governments but, as of this date, there are no firm commitments in place, which is a major concern for us. Rest assured we are redoubling our efforts on this front. What do we intend to do with $25 million? Simply put, our strategy is to expand our services and programs over the next few years to reach all the major regions across Canada where avalanches are a problem for public winter recreational use. This is not going to happen in a single season, and we have priority areas such as northern BC where we will be focusing initially. Avalanche Canada’s programs and services provide an invaluable safety net for winter tourism in mountainous regions. We have world-leading programs and we are pleased that we are now starting to be funded as world leaders. We are looking forward to working with the provinces to ensure the federal government contribution is the beginning of long-term sustainability for public avalanche safety in Canada, and not just for the next 10 years only. We are very humbled and grateful to Canadian taxpayers for their support. We will spend every dollar wisely and prudently. .

Kevin Seel, President

ACF board member Leah Plumridge (with daughter Ada), AC board member Richard Bergen, ACF board member Robbie Dixon, AC board member William Jackson, North Shore Rescue team member Peter Haigh, AC board member Jeremy Shier, Executive Director Gilles Valade, Minister Wilkinson, event MC Pascal Haegeli, ACF board member Quinn Ingham. Images: Karen Geiger

On July 8, 2019, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, announced federal funding for Avalanche Canada on behalf of Ralph Goodale, Minister for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. The announcement took place at Grouse Mountain, in Vancouver.

A Message from the Executive Director At the risk of sounding like a broken record, last year was even busier than past years. As usual, most of our efforts, outside of our ongoing operations, were directed to our funding situation. This hard work has paid off. In November, the federal government announced that Avalanche Canada would receive $25M in the form of a one-time endowment. Although we had been working on this for almost two years, the one-time endowment option was quite a surprise. After many months of back and forth with Public Safety, the department responsible for the funding agreement, everything was finalized this past July. The endowment is now held and managed by the Avalanche Canada Foundation under strict federal investment guidelines. Although $25 million is a lot of money, this funding is one-time only and now part of a federally approved 15-year business plan, that also includes Avalanche Quebec. The plan is based on a shared provincial and federal funding arrangement, supplemented by sponsorships and our own internally generated revenues. As suspected, the funding announcement triggered a “we don’t need to fund Avalanche Canada anymore” stampede so we spent quite a bit of time and effort making sure our existing funders not only stayed on board but were convinced to commit to more and/or longer term funding. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to do everything we would like to; this 15-year plan is only going to work by being prudent, strategic, and thinking long-term. Our priorities are to shore up existing programs and services, which were badly under-resourced, expand to key underserved regions, and start increasing our bilingual content. All of this is contingent on keeping and securing the necessary funding from the relevant provinces and territories. This year we will be adding a field team in the Yukon and the first of two field teams in the North Rockies; the second one is planned for next year. Our plans also include expanding to Vancouver Island with a field team and providing that region with our full suite of products and services. Unfortunately, this is on hold until we receive the additional funding we requested from the Province of British Columbia. On the other side of the country, we will be growing our presence in Newfoundland & Labrador with the support of Avalanche Quebec (AQ). AQ will now be providing daily avalanche forecasts and expanding their public and youth outreach activities across the province. We have also been busy with other initiatives including developing new forecasting software, which is one of the biggest projects we’ve ever undertaken. It was, by far, the busiest summer we’ve ever had. You will see in the report that last winter was especially busy for our social media and AvCan Training programs, which saw almost 12,000 students enroll over the season. Kudos to the providers of these courses and our own Nancy Geismar for making this happen. While it’s quite difficult to quantify the effectiveness of our efforts, the good news is that the 10-year annual average of avalanche fatalities is now the lowest it’s been since 1997. Although I’m the one writing this piece, all the credit for our success goes to the whole AvCan team of extremely dedicated and caring individuals. Best wishes for a great, safe winter.

Gilles Valade, Executive Director



Communicating Change This past season was one of profound change for Avalanche Canada. Since our inception in 2004, this organization has had to battle, almost constantly, for funding. But in November of 2019, our outlook shifted when the federal government announced a one-time endowment of $25 million for public avalanche safety. This endowment didn’t come without a significant amount of work. Our proposal for increased and sustained funding took us many months, striving to communicate to government officials why Canadians deserve a well-funded public avalanche safety organization, and what we would do if we were funded to capacity. Communicating with government has always been an important part of our work, but over the past year this function has been in overdrive. Explaining our position, and even our existence, to policy- and decision-makers in Ottawa became a significant focus, with every request for more information placed immediately at the top of the priority list. Of course our real work continued alongside these efforts. In mid-March we were the lead agency on an unprecedented special public avalanche warning encompassing virtually every forecast region in western Canada. Being able to coordinate between three forecasting agencies to deliver harmonized and vital safety messages that potentially saved lives is incredibly rewarding. This is when the true value of a centralized and standardized system proves its worth.

Our expansion plans include actively recruiting to find skilled and talented people to fill new jobs. In early May, we hosted this busy booth at the Canadian Avalanche Association’s annual spring conference, where we could network with avalanche professionals from across the country. Image: Mary Clayton

Glossary Project Avalanche Canada’s online glossary (avalanche.ca/glossary) received a major overhaul this summer to make it more comprehensive and understandable for our users. The glossary is an extensive resource of avalanche and weather terms that users of our website come across frequently, whether they’re reading our avalanche and weather forecasts, or viewing our learning material. Our communications team worked together with the forecast office over the summer to enhance the existing entries in the glossary to make them clearer, and added dozens of new ones. We added photos, graphics and videos to enhance entries where possible. With the update, the glossary is consistent with our new AST Handbook, and allows users to delve into a subject at multiple levels. It will allow readers to understand terms used in avalanche education, weather and avalanche forecasts, and snow science. The glossary is set up so we can easily link to individual entries. This will allow forecasters to include links for technical terms in the forecast, helping users to better understand the information. Over time, we will be creating videos for many entries, thereby enhancing the glossary while producing content for our social media channels.

Examples of some of the glossary entries, including diagrams, videos, and annotated images.



Social Media Avalanche Canada saw growth across all of its social media platforms in the 2018-2019 season and social media continues to play an important part in the communication strategy between Avalanche Canada and the public. This winter saw exciting changes to our social media strategy. We tweaked our content to focus on delivering key messaging to the public regarding conditions and important safety information, alongside other interesting content to create a balanced and engaging feed. This approach saw an increase in followers and an improvement in engagement throughout the season. The new strategy also builds on the successes of the South Rockies approach to social media, with the whole AvCan staff working together to create more engaging visual content to share on our social media channels. Our regional Avalanche Canada accounts in the South Rockies and North Rockies continue to grow, with the South Rockies Instagram gaining over a thousand new followers since the end of the 2017-2018 season and the new North Rockies Instagram account reaching 755 followers. These increases demonstrate the continued value of regional engagement with users on social media and the high quality of content generated by field teams and forecasters in the field. This season we also integrated paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram in our social media strategy to help alert users to important information, such as SPAWS and forecaster blogs. Using paid posts increased the scope of our messaging and allowed us to reach users with interest in backcountry activities but who might not otherwise have seen our content.

This year we increased our video content, made by Avalanche Canada team members. This contributed to an increased Facebook average reach over the season from 5792 in the 2017-2018 season to 9333 in the 2018-2019 season. The best performing Facebook post of the season was video of a wet avalanche, shot by the South Rockies team. This post reached an incredible 385,000 people, attracting 170,779 10-second video views.

We have started to “boost� our social media platforms by occasionally paying for increased reach. In the late winter, we used a paid campaign to promote Simon Fraser University’s survey on avalanche safety products to increase responses and encourage participation.

Starting followers End followers % increase Avg monthly reach Web sessions

20,310 22,449 11 5,591 147,701

Starting followers End followers % increase Highest reach Web sessions

11,089 15,985 44 20,906 3,111

Starting followers 7,032 End followers 7,443 % increase 6 Avg monthly impressions 58,216 Web sessions 5,840

Followers % increase Video views Watch time (mins) Impressions

Unique visitors 352,218 Page views 2,983,645 Unique page views 2,375,011 Sessions 1,102,225 % increase time on page 50

166 35 2,349 8,304 16,313

Followers % increase Video views

248 10 64,574 7

Social Media Intiatives Ambassador Takeovers In the spring, Nadine Overwater, Abby Cooper, and Holly Walker, each took over the AvCan Instagram for a day to highlight how integral avalanche safety is to the day-to-day life of one of our ambassadors. Abby shared her day in the backcountry in some challenging conditions. Sudden warming meant that travel in avalanche country had become tricky in the Whistler area. Her takeover used Instagram Stories to show the warning signs that the snowpack had become unstable. She also offered tips for travelling in spring conditions more safely and promoted the community snow observations initiative (communitysnowobs.org) that she is involved with. Abby’s stories pulled in an impressive 4,351 viewers when they were live. Nadine took over while on a trip to visit our South Rockies field team for some sled training. Her Instagram Stories showed the day, starting with the planning session before the team set out to the sledding skills they learned—including the importance of being able to master tail standers! Her stories were watched by 2,654 people in the 24 hours they were live. Holly shared a day in the life of a guide at Sol Mountain Lodge as her takeover. Holly’s takeover also showed the importance of choosing terrain to match the conditions as the warm weather continued. Her day was spent chasing sunny turns on north-facing slopes and avoiding steeper slopes, before the mandatory afternoon alpine nap in the sunshine. Holly’s takeover attracted 3,809 viewers while they were live and drove traffic to our Instagram profile and the profile of our sponsor, Mammut.

Social Schedule

MIN To Win Contest We continued to share the best MIN submission posts throughout this season, with prizes going to the winners of the forecasters’ favourite post. Each week, the forecasters would choose a post they felt provided the best or most relevant information at that time. The winning posts were shared across our networks, helping to promote the use of the MIN as well as promoting sponsors.

Google Ads Grant As part of our drive to help reach people who do not currently subscribe to our products and services, we secured a Google Ads Grant. This is a grant used to purchase display ads that show as sponsored results when people search for key terms in Google. The campaign is set to target people within our forecast areas who search for backcountry recreation terms and, although this campaign has only been live during the summer, the results are already looking promising for leading new traffic to our website in the upcoming season.

Stakeholder News Four times a year, we send out an e-newsletter to over 2,000 people with updates on our activities and previews on our projects. Stakeholder News goes out to members, partners, sponsors and donors to both Avalanche Canada and the Avalanche Canada Foundation. This newsletter has proven to be an invaluable method of communicating with our wide array of stakeholders in public avalanche safety. Stakeholder News

Avalanche ambassador Chris Rubens in action. Image: Bruno Long



Avalanche Ambassadors The Avalanche Canada Ambassador program is now in its fourth year of working with elite athletes to promote avalanche safety. The team, chosen as leaders in their area of winter recreation, represent some of the most high profile winter backcountry users in their sports. Each member of the team brings their own experiences and extensive knowledge of backcountry safety to their work as an ambassador, allowing us to share our message through their individual styles and personalities. The passion the ambassadors have for the mountains and using them safely reinforces our core messaging and reaches audience who may not ordinarily use our products. The team used hashtags, tags, comments, and photos, to promote AvCan’s messaging on social media to reach their audiences and attended outreach events throughout the season in person.

Chris Rubens @chrisrubens Chris Rubens has been a globally recognized professional skier for over a decade. Truly dedicated and extremely passionate about skiing in the mountains, Chris spends as much time as possible in the backcountry every winter, specializing in putting beautiful lines down mountains for both film and photo projects. He spends most of his winters collaborating with Salomon Freeski TV and Sherpas Cinema. Between ski trips, Chris resides in the town of Revelstoke, BC, which provides a backyard of endless opportunities for outdoor pursuits.

Nadine Overwater @nadineoverwater Nadine started out on a snowmobile at age seven and has never looked back. She got into serious mountain sledding in 2007 and has been guiding in the Revelstoke area since 2010. She spends well over 100 days a season on her machine, riding with all different skill levels and pursuing professional-level avalanche training. In 2012, Nadine started La Nina Sled Camp, a venue for women riders to build confidence in a positive environment, away from the stress of having to keep up with their partners. Nadine hopes to continue influencing and educating other women to “get out and shred” as often as they like.

Abby Cooper @abbydells Over the last decade, Abby has crafted a career in the outdoor industry as a photographer and writer specializing in backcountry photoshoots and culture. Whether for work or pleasure, this girl is always on the move, always in the mountains, and always searching for powder. When she's not chasing golden hour deep in a range with a 27kg camera pack, she's speaking at snow safety clinics and has even created her own series of social events known as "Split Social." Abby also volunteers with Mountain Mentors, SheJumps and works with Wheelie Creative to help increase female participation in the outdoors.

Youth Ambassadors Aleks Klassen @aleksklassen Aleks can't remember not skiing. He was on skis before he was two years old and has loved the sport ever since. He lives in Revelstoke and raced with the Revelstoke Ski Club until he was 14, when he switched the race suit and skinny skis for the fat backcountry boards. With a mountain guide as a father, he's had many opportunities to see avalanche professionals in action, and to ski deep backcountry pow. Aleks finished his last year of high school over the past winter and is looking forward to hitting the slopes and putting in as many days on snow as possible.

Andreas Massitti @andreasmassitti Andreas took his first AST course through the Rocky Mountain Freeriders (RMF) five years ago. Since then he has spent countless days in the backcountry finding opportunities to educate himself on backcountry travel and risk management. While Andreas spends as much time as he can in the snow-covered mountains, he’s also pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering, which sometimes draws him away from deeps days more than he’d like. However, his curiosity for how things work feeds into his interest for snow science and the technology of the gear he uses regularly in the backcountry. Andreas is supported by Monod Sports, The North Face, and Blizzard Technica.

Anthony Rizzuto @anthony_rizzuto Over the past few seasons Anthony has spent every weekend skiing with RMF and squeezed in backcountry days whenever possible. He believes it is important to receive proper education on backcountry travel and is super stoked to be part of the Avalanche Canada team for a second year in a row. He wants to influence backcountry skiers and splitboarders alike to make good choices and understand that coming home at the end of the day is more important than shredding that sick pillow line or couloir.

Avalanche Associates In addition to the AvCan Ambassadors, messaging was also supported by our Avalanche Canada Associates, Holly Walker and Dave Crerar, who shared their knowledge and passion for staying safe in the backcountry with the public on social media throughout the season. Holly Walker Dave Crerar @hollyskiwalker @davecrerar


Our Community

Conferences Avalanche Canada participates in numerous conferences throughout Canada and abroad. These meetings provide an opportunity for us to collaborate with our stakeholders, offer guidance, and garner support for public avalanche safety initiatives. 2018 International Snow Science Workshop (ISSW) October 7-12, 2018, Innsbruck, Austria Held every two years in North America and Europe, the ISSW is the world’s largest conference on snow and avalanches, with over 1,000 delegates from alpine nations around the world. A number of our field, forecasting, and communications staff gave oral and poster presentations during this five-day conference. Elk Valley Snow & Avalanche Workshop, November 10, 2018, Fernie, BC The event welcomed avalanche professionals and recreationists for a day of collective discussion and engaging presentations on a variety of winter backcountry topics. Grant Helgeson, one of our senior forecasters, was the emcee and members of our South Rockies field team were presenters. Outdoor Retailer Plus Snow Show 2019, January 28 to February 1, 2019, Denver, CO Once again, the OR Winter show was combined with the Snow Show. Executive Director Gilles Valade attended the show to network with our existing sponsors and garner support from new sponsors. HeliCat Canada AGM & Spring Meeting, May 6, 2019, Penticton, BC HeliCat Canada is a member organization representing Canada’s helicopter and snowcat skiing industry. As an affiliate member, our management staff regularly attend this meeting to network and understand the trends in this recreational tourism industry. Canadian Avalanche Association Annual Spring Conference, May 7-10, 2019, Penticton, BC Avalanche Canada forecasters, managers and coordinators attend this annual conference for Canada’s avalanche industry professionals. This conference provides a venue for strategic meetings and presentations that are pertinent for our public avalanche safety programs. International Snowmobile Congress, June 5-9, 2019, Grand Rapids, MI Our snowmobile outreach coordinator Brent Strand attended the 51st annual ISC, a conference that focuses on issues important to snowmobiling. This conference provides the opportunity to meet with many of our snowmobile sponsors and establish relationships with other key snowmobile industry organizations. European Avalanche Warning Services Conference, June 12-14, 2019, Oslo, Norway The aim of the EAWS is to prevent the loss of life and damages due to avalanches by providing effective warning services. Warning Services Manager Karl Klassen attended the conference, presenting on our AvID project, and some of the supporting research that has been conducted to look at new ways of communicating avalanche risk to the public. Snow and Avalanche Foundation of Scotland, June 19-20, 2019, Inverness, Scotland Our Warning Services Manager, Karl Klassen, delivered three presentations and was the keynote speaker for two. His presentations focused on our holistic approach to public avalanche safety services. Southern Hemisphere Alpine Conference, June 18-19, 2019, Christchurch, New Zealand This biennial conference brings together avalanche professionals, commercial snow and alpine organizations, and other industry professionals. This year, Forecasting Programs Supervisor Ilya Storm was one of the keynote speakers. Ilya presented on five key avalanche accidents that led to Canadian innovations in snow safety. He also ran a workshop on AvCan’s approach to data-sparse regions. Blumbergs Charities Courses & Canada Revenue Agency Charities Information Sessions, June 10-11, 2019, Toronto, ON In 2018 Avalanche Canada became a federally registered charity. Our Comptroller, Janis Borden, attended several sessions at this conference regarding charity reporting, federal compliance, and receipting. She also attended the CRA’s Charities Information Session in conjunction with the Blumbergs sessions.

Avalanche Québec Avalanche Québec is based in the Chic-Choc Mountains of Québec’s Gaspé Peninsula and produces a bilingual avalanche forecast for that region every two days throughout the winter. As a non-profit organization, its mission is to improve avalanche safety in Québec through public education, avalanche bulletins, and supporting research. We have a long-standing relationship with Avalanche Québec and have collaborated on many initiatives over the years. Over the past year we worked together with Avalanche Québec to present our national strategy to the federal government. This new funding will affect us both, and backcountry recreationists in Quebec can expect to see some exciting developments in their regional public avalanche safety programs for the coming season. We also hosted two forecasters from Avalanche Quebec over the winter—Dominic Boucher and Julie LeBlanc. Dominc and Julie came for two weeks each and it was great to have them join our team in Revelstoke and experience our forecasting program. Avalanche Québec was established in 1999 and has had a significant impact in improving backcountry safety in that province. Each winter, thousands of backcountry travelers use their programs to plan their trips in the Chic-Chocs and Avalanche Québec has been identified as an important component of the growing tourism market in that region. We are excited to be moving forward together in our vision to become a truly national public avalanche safety organization.

Field technician examining the aftermath of an avalanche in the Chic Chocs. Image: Julie LeBlanc


Our Community Our new trucks, proudly lined up in front of our Revelstoke office. Image: Alex Cooper

BC Gaming Capital Grant In the fall of 2018, we received news that our application for a BC Gaming capital project grant was approved. These types of grants are meant for the purchase of capital assets for long-term use and required the applicants to match the amount of funding requested. This grant came just in time, as our leases on two Toyota Tundras would be expiring in early November. With this new capital grant funding, we purchased three Ford F350 4x4 trucks, a new enclosed snowmobile trailer and a snowmobile deck—all essential equipment for our field teams and outreach programs. We were very pleased to be able to buy vehicles with larger payloads to meet the needs of our expanding field staff. The enclosed trailer provides better security and efficiency and replaces an older, open deck trailer we had been using for the past few years. The snowmobile deck provides greater flexibility, allowing our teams to access trails in the early and late season when towing trailers to trailheads is prohibited. AvCan depends on reliable and safe trucks and trailers to deliver our programs. Our trucks are an integral part of our operations for our field teams, forecasters, youth educator, snowmobile outreach coordinator, and other public staff. The capital project grant is separate from our annual application to BC Community Gaming for $250,000. We have been successful with these grant applications to BC Gaming since 2010. This funding has been the backbone of our operations in BC.


Our Community

Gordon Ritchie Service Award In the spring of 2019, we honoured one of the foremost contributors to public avalanche education in Canada, Gordon Ritchie. Gordon has been working in the field of avalanche education since 1981. He started as a volunteer with the Canadian Ski Patrol Society at Lake Louise, quickly becoming engaged in avalanche education. He became an instructor for the avalanche training programs in Calgary in 1990 and the following year took over the role of program coordinator for the CSPS mountain division. He became the society’s National Avalanche Training Coordinator in 1996. In 1997, recognizing the need for more structured public avalanche education, Gordon approached the Canadian Avalanche Association to create a new course. The Recreational Avalanche Courses were first unveiled in 1998, setting the foundations for today’s Avalanche Canada Training program. Around that time, he also helped launch and deliver the Snowsmart program for school students. He served on the board of the CAA and has been a board member of the Avalanche Canada Foundation since its founding in 1998, first as treasurer, then as president since 2010. His legacy in promoting avalanche safety is far reaching. Almost 12,000 students took an Avalanche Canada Training course last winter; the importance of the work he has done in this field cannot be overstated. To recognize Gordon’s enormous contributions to public avalanche safety, we are pleased to announce that the Service Award will be renamed to the Gordon Ritchie Service Award. It will be presented annually to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to public avalanche safety in Canada.

Executive Director Gilles Valade presents the newly named Gordon Ritchie Service Award to Gord himself, at the Canadian Avalanche Association’s AGM in Penticton, BC, May, 2019 Image: Alex Cooper

Avalanche Canada Service Award The Avalanche Canada service award is presented annually to individuals who have demonstrated exceptional dedication to public avalanche safety. In 2018, we were very pleased to recognize Chris Brookes, Executive Director of the Alberta Snowmobile Association (ASA). Chris and the ASA has been a long-time supporter of Avalanche Canada and a strong advocate of avalanche safety training. Under Chris’ leadership, the ASA offers a bursary program for up to 100 of their club members that fully reimburses riders who take an AST course. Chris continues to demonstrate true leadership in his efforts to encourage avalanche safety training among snowmobilers. His support for our work has made a big difference and we are very pleased to recognize his efforts with this award.

Snowmobile Program Coordinator Brent Strand presenting our annual award to Chris Brookes.

Canadian Avalanche Association Service Award Our Warning Services Manager, Karl Klassen, received a Service Award from the Canadian Avalanche Association. Karl was recognized for his innumerable contributions to public avalanche safety in Canada over his lengthy career. Over more than 35 years he has been a guide, researcher, author, filmmaker, mentor, instructor, and examiner. He has been both the executive director and the president of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. He was one of the key players behind the founding of Avalanche Canada in 2004 and has played a crucial role in its growth ever since as the head of its forecasting program, all the while serving as the lead guide at Monashee Powder Snowcats.

CAA board member Ryan Buhler presenting their service award to Karl Klassen.

As the CAA puts it: “Over the years he has left an indelible imprint on the public bulletin, InfoEx, and almost every other advancement of the avalanche community.”

Avalanche Diva Jennifer Coulter, leader of our South Rockies field team, was honoured as an Avalanche Diva at the International Snow Science Workshop (ISSW) in Innsbruck, Austria, in October, 2018. The ISSW is a biennial conference bringing together snow and avalanche researchers and practitioners. The Diva Night is a long-standing ISSW tradition that celebrates women, provides an evening of networking, and recognizes exceptional individuals who have made their mark in this maledominated industry. Jen was made an Avalanche Diva in recognition of her leadership with our South Rockies team, as well as her impressive credentials as an avalanche dog handler.

Jen Coulter in her natural environment.


Our Community

Fundraising As a non-profit, non-government organization, we work hard to acquire grants, seek stakeholder support, work with sponsors, and basically make every cent count. Ensuring continued access to vital public safety information and programs is a huge job that we can’t do alone; we appreciate all the help we get. Many, many thanks to all the individuals and groups who put time, energy, and resources towards making their backcountry community safer. Canuck Splitfest The ninth annual Canuck Splitfest, presented by Trapper Snowboards in Revelstoke on Jan 12, was a fantastic event that raised $12,700 for Avalanche Canada. Since 2011, the Canuck Splitfest has raised a total of over $64,000 for public avalanche safety programs. This is the largest splitboard event of its kind and continues to be a significant fundraiser for AvCan. A huge thank you to all of the sponsors, volunteers, presenters, and supporters that helped with the fundraising efforts. Over 300 people from all over North America attended the Saturday night social, raffle, and presentations. Presentations from Grant Helgeson of Avalanche Canada, Marty Schaffer of CAPOW, Mike Wigley (aka Pow Slashing Wigley), and Abby Cooper provided a great combination of technical and fun, sharing images and experiences of time well spent in the mountains. The raffle was the biggest ever with eight splitboards up for grabs. Other prizes included a day of heli-skiing, Arc'teryx jackets, bindings from Karakoram, K2, Phantom, and Spark R&D, skins, backpacks, avalanche gear, an ACC hut trip, and tons of other gear from the event sponsors. Presenting Sponsor Trapper Snowboards Gold Sponsors: Arbor, Arc’teryx, Chimera, Eagle Pass Heliskiing, Intuition, Karakoram, Lib Tech, Olive, Prior, Venture Snowboards, Tourism Revelstoke Silver Sponsors Alpine Club of Canada, Backcountry Access/K2, Burton, Capow, Cheetah Factory Racing, Free Spirit Sports, Kootenay Mountain Culture, The North Face, Pallas Snowboards, Phantom Bindings, Revelstoke Mountaineer,

Sandman Revelstoke, Splitboard HQ, Tradesman Manufacturing, Whitewater Ski Resort Bronze Sponsors Andrew Strain Photographer, Dakine, EricPoulinPhoto, Genuine Guide Gear, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, Sandbox, Society Snow & Skate, Splitboard.com, Stoke FM Radio, Stoke Roasted Coffee, Westwood Design Social Sponsors MacKenzie Peak Law Group, Mt. Begbie Brewing Co, Royal LePage/Tara Sutherland, The Village Idiot, Whitetooth Brewing Co.

Grassroots Support Avalanche Awareness Days

Merritt Snowmobile Club Many thanks to this club, which donates annually to Avalanche Canada. Their donation is based on the number of trail passes and memberships they sell.

Soulines Backcountry Event

AAD began as an awareness and fundraising event for Avalanche Canada over 20 years ago. Today, it boasts over 25 communities hosting avalanche awareness activities for the public. Many venues continue the tradition of hosting a fundraiser as part of their AAD schedule. This year, Apex Mountain Resort, Castle Mountain Ski Resort, and Fernie Alpine Resort held fundraisers and donated all of the proceeds to Avalanche Canada’s public safety programs.

The winner of this event’s Space Bear video contest, Dustin Craven, chose to donate $1,500 of his award to Avalanche Canada. Event founder, Jason Gretzinger said, “We’re pretty pleased with this contribution as this event is all about backcountry safety awareness. We as a backcountry community rely on the hard work Avalanche Canada does and are happy to support you”.

Rockies Shred Fest

Sled Donations

Hosted by Crowfoot Media, this kickoff to the ski season is held at Wild Bill’s Legendary Saloon in Banff, AB. The event features local ski and snowboard films for an enthusiastic sold-out crowd. For the past three years, Crowfoot Media has donated a percentage of the ticket sales to Avalanche Canada and this year they collected over $1400 for our programs. Thank you for your continued support!

We were humbled by two unexpected and very generous donations in the fall. Two separate groups raised funds and each provided us with a 2018 BRP Ski-Doo 850 snowmobile. Many thanks to the 306 Riders Union, headed by Cody Hartley and Kyle Epp, and the Anything Recreation Western Canada group, lead by Andrew MacDonald and Jon Dunbar. And thanks to a donation of new shocks by Matt Jensen, we were able to breathe new life into our 2013 BRP Ski Doo 800. We are very grateful for this support, especially as it comes directly from the snowmobiling community.

Crow Snowriders Poker Run On January 21 the Crow Snowriders from Crowsnest Pass, AB held a successful poker run and fundraiser for Avalanche Canada. The event included a transceiver practice with our South Rockies field team members during a BBQ lunch, and raised over $1,500 with auction items from our sponsors FXR Racing and BCA, in addition to a $500 donation from the club. Event organizers engage regularly with the South Rockies team’s social media, sharing many of their posts and helping our message reach other Alberta snowmobile clubs. Many thanks to the Crow Snowriders for their generous donation and their commitment to avalanche safety.

Fernie Snowmobile Association For the second year in a row, the Fernie Snowmobile Association donated $3,000 to our South Rockies field team program. The FSA and our field team collaborate on local outreach initiatives directed at snowmobilers in their riding area.


Public Avalanche Warning Service

Newfoundland Avalanche Canada staff travelled east to Newfoundland last winter to work on avalanche terrain ratings and provide outreach to the growing backcountry community there. Newfoundland, like everywhere, is seeing more and more people venture into the backcountry every year. There is a longstanding backcountry skiing community heading out on telemark skis and metaledged cross-country skis, but also a growing group of splitboarders and people on fat skis. Snowmobiling on trails is longestablished, but mountain snowmobiling is growing in popularity. Because of the extreme winds, whiteouts, and frequent rain, people are eager to get after it when the conditions are good, making for situations where people are in the backcountry when conditions are most dangerous. Avalanche Canada has been rating terrain using the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES) for several winter backcountry recreation areas in Newfoundland. In March, Mark Bender, one of our senior forecasters, spent a week in the province skiing and snowmobiling into popular areas to review the ratings on the ground. He also networked with several locals and spoke about ATES ratings and the Mountain Information Network to recreationists in Cornerbrook and Norris Point. As Avalanche Canada embarks on our national strategy, and with a growing appetite for avalanche education in Newfoundland, we expect to do more work in the province going forward.

A sample of some of the avalanche terrain in Canada’s easternmost province. Image: Mark Bender

AvID Update Our three-year project to develop new software for our avalanche forecasting program is nearing a close. AvID (short for avalanche information distribution) will replace the aging AvalX forecasting software currently in use. Funding for this ambitious project is thanks to a grant from the National Search and Rescue Secretariat’s Search and Rescue Initiatives Fund. Over the past year, much work has gone in to the data aggregation and visualization model. There has been some tremendously innovative research from Simon Fraser University that has driven the data visualization, taking this component of the program far beyond anything ever seen in this field. Even though it hasn’t yet launched, AvID has sparked international interest. The forecasting software is in the final stages of being integrated into the website and our app and our plans are to have it ready for launch for the 2019-20 season. Over the coming winter, work will continue on the data management system and we’ll be looking at final tweaks to the warning service product design, content, and delivery.


Public Avalanche Warning Service

New Mobile App Last season we completed an entire rewrite of our Avalanche Canada Mobile app. The app is an essential component of our MIN platform as it allows real-time data to be shared with our forecasting team and other users. It also allows users to get the forecast virtually anywhere they have cell data. There were many major improvements, including easier access to our forecasts and data from remote weather stations, the ability to see the fatal recreational incidents, and the ability to view the Arc’teryx Mountain Conditions Reports on the map. The interface with our Mountain Information Network (MIN) is also significantly improved with the new app. Users now have the ability to preview MIN reports before submitting them, and submit the same reports as those submitted from a web browser. Our team crowd-sourced a group of volunteer users to complete the development testing prior to release. Developing, testing, and continual maintenance of the app is an ongoing major project for our IT team so we appreciate the positive feedback from our users. “Huge improvement over the last version. Everything is much cleaner and smoother. Weather station data is easily accessible and viewing pictures is now a pleasant experience.” - User review We’re very proud of our new app but it’s important we continue to communicate with users that it is not a replacement for our website. Avalanche Canada Mobile is a companion to our website, allowing backcountry users easy access to relevant safety information in the field.

Mountain Information Network The Mountain Information Network (MIN) is an essential tool for backcountry recreationists and professionals alike. The information sharing platform allows users to submit their observations from the field, in real time, providing an important resource for decision making. Observations shared with the MIN are also an integral part of our forecasters’ workflow, supplying information to fill in data gaps, especially in datasparse regions. This past season, we focused our efforts on improving the MIN on mobile app and promoting it to users regardless of their backcountry skills. Through social media contest, we used prizing as incentives to encourage adoption of the platform. In addition, our South Rockies field team created their own MIN posts on a weekly basis for their area and share them across our region-specific social media, highlighting concerns in the snowpack while encouraging other local users to view the data and submit their own observations. This practice will be put into use with our new field teams for the 2019-20 season.

Learn more at avalanche.ca/mountaininformation-network



Keeping current with the latest research is essential to our goal of reducing avalanche accidents. Since 2015, we have been supporting Dr. Pascal Haegeli’s position as Research Chair in Avalanche Risk Management at Simon Fraser University (SF). We work closely with Pascal and his students on a variety of projects, often advising on topics that have potential for improvements to public avalanche safety.

Since 2004, when Avalanche Canada was established, our forecasters have relied on the professional information exchange known as InfoEx as our primary source of data.

Over the past season we collaborated closely with two of Pascal’s students who have been focusing on assessing the efficacy of our avalanche forecasts in terms of risk communication. They created a comprehensive online survey, with questions aimed at understanding not only who our users are, but their self-assessed level of avalanche knowledge. While still in early stages, the initial findings from this study have already provided us with some valuable insight. Thanks to a Mitacs grant, which encourages collaboration between researchers and industry, forecaster Simon Horton is able to combine his post-doctoral studies at SFU while still forecasting for us. Simon’s focus is on snowpack modeling, an extremely relevant topic for solving the challenges of forecasting for Western Canada’s vast terrain. We are looking forward to operationalizing some of Simon’s work this coming winter. Computer modeling allows our forecasters to visualize a snowpack where we don’t have the benefit of local observers, giving them a better understanding of the snowpack complexities to provide a more accurate forecast. Avalanche Canada plays an important role in technology transfer, helping to bridge the gap between academic research and real-world application. As we incorporate new research into our daily operations, we can refine and focus, always with the long-term goal of improving public avalanche safety products.

InfoEx is a subscription service for professional avalanche operations in Canada that allows a daily online exchange of snow, weather, and avalanche observations. As a subscriber, Avalanche Canada accesses this reliable stream of high-quality data, which then informs our understanding of the ever-changing snowpack across the vast and remote mountainous regions of western Canada. InfoEx has been administered by the Canadian Avalanche Association every winter since 1991. The InfoEx system, and its subscribers who provide their data on a daily basis, play an integral role in Canada’s public avalanche safety.

Yukon Program Avalanche Canada works closely with the nonprofit Yukon Avalanche Association (YAA) to provide regular avalanche safety information for the White Pass and Wheaton Valley regions. This season, as with the past two winters, we published an avalanche advisory twice a week for this region, providing backcountry users with a general summary of local conditions accompanied by risk management advice. The data required for these products was supplied by four local avalanche technicians, who were hired to conduct regular avalanche field observations, develop the advisories, and deliver public outreach programs for local backcountry users. The goals of this project are to provide local users with relevant and timely avalanche information to support informed decision making, and develop avalanche safety knowledge, skills, and capacity in the Yukon. Engaging directly with backcountry users is a vital part of this program, which is why it is important to have representatives on the ground in the community. We are continually encouraging the use of the Mountain Information Network in this data-sparse region. In the Yukon, this has been a successful effort. Our MIN engagement for this region is the highest of any in our forecasting program. The avalanche technicians were in the field at least twice a week over the season. Occasionally, fieldwork was conducted in conjunction with Parks Canada avalanche technicians, under an MOU that enabled collaboration when operational objectives aligned. For the 2019-20 season, Avalanche Canada will have a dedicated three-person field team in the Yukon. We’re looking forward to providing even more services for this region with this increased presence.

The Yukon’s White Pass and Wheaton Valley regions are popular winter backcountry destinations. Image: Mark Grist

Public Avalanche Warning Service

South Rockies Field Team South Rockies field team lead Jen Coulter taking notes in a test profile. This data collection is a vital component of the daily forecast for this region. Image: Jen Coulter

The South Rockies field team are leaders in avalanche awareness in their region and is the model for new Avalanche Canada field teams. The three-person team plays a valuable role in the region by collecting snowpack, weather, and avalanche information in data-sparse areas for the forecasting office in Revelstoke. They attend outreach events and have a strong social media following, making them a trusted resource for the backcountry community in the South Rockies region. In the winter of 2018-19, they played a key role in the inaugural Elk Valley Snow and Avalanche Workshop. Team leader Jennifer Coulter was in charge of programming and booking speakers for the event. She and South Rockies teammate Lisa Larson presented on the benefits of posting to the MIN, while Martina Halik presented on digital tools for the backcountry. They were back at the Fernie Snowmobile Association’s (FSA) Avalanche Awareness Days again this year, where Jennifer and Lisa helped run the transceiver station. They interacted with many sledders, who were keen to ask questions and practice their search skills. They also attended the Crow Snow Riders poker run and the FSA Gumball Adventure Challenge, where Jennifer ran the avalanche rescue station at the event. The South Rockies team has developed a highly successful model of promoting a culture of avalanche safety through outreach and social media. That model will be used as we establish new field teams for the coming season.


Education and Outreach

Avalanche Canada Training Programs We have rebranded our courses under the Avalanche Canada Training banner. This move reflects the fact our education program includes more than the Avalanche Skills Training course, but also encompasses the Companion Rescue Skills and Managing Avalanche Terrain courses. The number of students taking our training courses reached new heights again last winter. An impressive 11,728 students completed courses in 2018-19, an eight per cent increase over the previous year. We continue to be amazed by the growing number of students taking our courses. It demonstrates the public is hungry for avalanche education, and how they are actively seeking it out. For the first time, more than 10,000 people took our AST 1 course over the winter, while AST 2 enrolment remains about 10-15% of AST 1 levels. Over 1,100 people took our AST 2 course last year—a new record—but we’d like to see those numbers increase and more people extend their avalanche education. Fewer students took a Companion Rescue Skills course than the previous year, but we saw a 20% jump in enrolment in our one-day Managing Avalanche Terrain course that was launched three winters ago. The majority of students are skiers and snowboarders, with snowmobilers making up 10% of total student numbers. Snowshoers are a small but growing demographic and it is gratifying to see them embrace avalanche education. The number of youth completing a training course increased by 21% over 2017-18. Avalanche Canada Training programs are world-renowned and are emulated by numerous countries. Our courses have been licensed by providers in Japan, Australia, Norway, Georgia, and Chile, and our Avaluator 2.0 has been translated into Polish, Spanish, and Norwegian.





AST 1 Course Participants

AST 2 Course Participants

CRS Course Participants

MAT Course Participants





















Presented by













17-181 18-19

AST Handbook We were proud to publish our first book this year, the Avalanche Skills Training Handbook. Written by our forecasting program supervisor James Floyer and long-time educator Keith Robine, this 100-page book was created for students taking the AST 1 course. The new book closely follows our AST 1 course curriculum and incorporates a model that mimics what avalanche professionals do on a daily basis. It also focuses on human factors and incorporates four excellent case studies. Scenarios and questions at the end of each chapter help spur learning opportunities. Once the book was published, work began on a version aimed at snowmobilers. James worked with Curtis Pawliuk, a snowmobile guide and AST instructor, on this edition, which updates the original with education focused on the needs of snowmobilers. The original ski version is also being translated into French.

Dangerator Video Our new Dangerator tool was launched in the fall of 2018 and an accompanying video was released over the winter. Our senior forecasters James Floyer and Mark Bender worked hard on developing this tool and presented the results of their work at ISSW 2018 in Innsbruck, Austria. The Dangerator allows recreationists to estimate the avalanche danger rating in regions where none exists. It uses a two-step process of combining weather data and field observations to assess whether the danger is moderate, considerable or high. The Dangerator is provided to all Avalanche Canada Training students, and the video is available online at avalanche.ca/dangerator. Until we are able to provide forecasts for all popular backcountry recreation areas in Canada, the Dangerator will play a vital role in public avalanche safety.

This new handbook replaces Bruce Jamieson’s foundational book, Backcountry Avalanche Awareness, which was the main text for our AST courses for many years. We are thrilled to be able to provide these three excellent resources to future AST students.

Companion Rescue Course Update Our Companion Rescue Skills (CRS) curriculum was updated to reflect new techniques and protocols. Avalanche Canada contracted Jordy Shepherd, a mountain guide, avalanche professional and instructor, to bring our CRS in line with the Canadian Avalanche Association’s Avalanche Search & Rescue course. In the fall, he delivered four instructor training courses to bring educators up to date with the new curriculum.

Avalanche Skills Training Handbook James Floyer and Keith Robine


Education and Outreach

Youth Programs Avalanche Canada’s youth outreach program reached more than 10,000 students for the first time ever in 2018-19. Thanks to generous support from our sponsors and partners, we were able to present snow and avalanche safety lessons to 10,330 students at over 100 different schools in Alberta and BC. This was an increase of 1,779 students over the previous year. This growth was made possible thanks to support from the Columbia Basin Trust, Parks Canada, and the Hugh & Helen Hincks Fund. Regional Breakdown Columbia Basin—5,794 students Bow Valley/Calgary—1,740 students

Okanagan—200 students South Coast—335 students

Alberta North—2,261 students

Northern Alberta Tour In 2017, we discovered that over the previous five years, a significant percentage of snowmobile avalanche victims were males who lived within a 150 km radius of Edmonton. Recognizing a need to increase our outreach in that area, we received a grant from the Hugh & Helen Hincks Fund to provide our avalanche safety awareness to schools in the region. Thanks to the support of the Avalanche Canada Foundation, Shannon Werner, our youth education coordinator, was able to travel to the region and present to classrooms in Edmonton, Grand Cache, Hinton, Edson, Whitecourt, Red Deer, Jasper and Rocky Mountain House. This work enables us to build a foundation of avalanche awareness that starts in the schools and continues to adulthood.

Youth AST Last season was the third year in a row that we were able to offer a subsidized AST 1 course for students aged 16 and older, who are interested in furthering their avalanche education. The two-day course was provided to 93 students in Revelstoke, Golden, Kimberley, Cranbrook, Trail, and Rossland.

Toolbox Program Our free toolbox program continues to be accessed widely throughout western Canada. The program consists of four boxes holding 15-20 sets of avalanche rescue gear (transceivers, probes, and shovels) along with snow study kits and snow saws. The toolboxes are provided for free to teachers and youth groups interested in teaching snow safety. In 2018-19, the toolboxes were provided to 37 different school programs teaching hands-on avalanche rescue training to over 700 students. Many thanks to MEC, Mammut, and BCA for supporting this program.

Youth Education Team Our youth education team increased to nine instructors last year. Many thanks to them for delivering courses in schools and communities throughout BC and Alberta. Shannon Werner, Coordinator Brendan Cosgrove Megan Kelly Dave Quinn Colin Adamson Brittany Dickson Madeleine Martin-Preney Mel Saarinen Alison Cardinal Brandon Gulstene Curtis Pawliuk

External Programs Avalanche Canada is pleased to support external youth programs providers with resources, materials, and curriculum. Our website has a youth section where anyone can access resources, handouts, education guidelines, and presentations to help with their lessons. We supported Girls Do Ski youth AST 1 program, which is a fully-subsidized course for girls aged 16-21. We also donated brand new avalanche gear to participants in the Open Mountains Project ski touring program. This Revelstoke-based non-profit provides barrier-free outdoor opportunities to vulnerable youth. We continued our support of the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club’s Youth Sled Safety Day at Boulder Mountain by providing companion rescue training with our staff.

“The avalanche safety and backcountry awareness presentation delivered to my students was very motivating and educational. The presentation was delivered in a positive and interesting manner that allowed for student interaction and fit in perfectly with our curriculum.” Robert Schmidt, Outdoor Pursuits Program Director, Vimy Ridge Academy, Edmonton, AB

“Our students will be growing up and living in the mountains snowmobiling, skiing, snowboarding, camping and generally using the backcountry as their backyard. Thank you for bringing us this well thought out, handson, engaging learning opportunity that keeps our kids safe.” John Hammer, Principal, Summitview Middle School, Grande Cache, AB

Youth educator Curtis Pawliuk presenting the always crowdpleasing avalanche airbag to an elementary school in Valemount, BC. Image: Staff photo


Education and Outreach

Outreach Once again, Avalanche Canada staff spread far and wide throughout Canada with outreach messaging. While most of our efforts were spent in western Canada, we also had one of our senior forecasters present at two outreach sessions in Newfoundland to spread avalanche safety messaging in Canada’s youngest province. Last year, our outreach programs connected with almost 4,500 people through various events. We presented and spoke to a diverse group of winter backcountry users, including skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers, snowshoers, and more. This year we made a concerted effort to reach so-called “unawares.” These are often snowshoers who hike the same trails in winter as in summer, but aren’t aware of the additional hazards present in winter. MEC helped deliver this message by hosting sessions in their North Vancouver, Calgary South and Edmonton stores. MEC also hosted an outreach presentation at their Calgary store, and we had forecasters sit on a panel for a viewing of the film “This Mountain Life” in Kelowna and North Vancouver. We hosted Backcountry Avalanche Workshops in Trail, Creston, Kelowna, Valemount, Mackenzie, Prince George, and Newfoundland, and our forecasting team attended the Backcountry Festival on Vancouver Island. Over 450 people attended these various presentations. We partnered with CAPOW for Freshtival in Calgary, Shredfest Rockies in Banff, and Staying Alive in Revelstoke (with Revelstoke Mountain Resort) and Golden (with Kicking Horse Mountain Resort). Nearly 1,400 people attended these events to get prepared for the season. Our South Rockies field team played an integral role in the first ever Elk Valley Snow and Avalanche Workshop (EVSAW). This event was a huge success, with 230 people in attendance. The SoRo team also partnered with the Fernie Snowmobile Association for Avalanche Awareness Days and its Adventure Challenge, and teamed up with the Crow Snow Riders for its poker rally and fundraiser.

Outreach Presentations Each year our forecasters develop presentations for our many outreach events. The content varies from season to season. Sometimes we will focus on a case study examining real incidents, while other presentations introduce new tools for backcountry users. Always, these presentations provide meaningful and effective learning opportunities. In 2018-19 we used the following presentations:

Off-the-Line This presentation was geared toward more experienced backcountry snowmobilers, skiers and splitboarders and showed how small distances—nuances in aspect and inclination—could mean the difference between a great day out and a serious incident. It was created after our forecasters noticed a pattern of fatalities (and several near-misses) over the preceding winter that resulted from the victims not being quite where they thought they were or, in many cases, where they wanted to be. The take-home point was to be more conservative when conditions are touchy, as these small differences can have huge and devastating consequences.

The Dangerator The Dangerator is an important new tool we developed for backcountry users in regions not served by a regular avalanche forecast. The presentation introducing this tool and explaining the steps required to estimate your own danger rating was delivered to audiences in the areas most affected, North Rockies. It was very important for us to demonstrate and promote the Dangerator to as many people as possible, in order to encourage its use.

South Rockies team leader Jen Coulter during Avalanche Awareness Days in Fernie. Image: Nicole Matei

Avalanche Awareness Days 2019 Avalanche Awareness Days is a celebration of our winter heritage, an opportunity to learn more about our winter environment, and building awareness of backcountry safety. In 2019, events were held in 30 venues. Most were in Alberta and BC but events also took place in Quebec and the Yukon. Avalanche Awareness Days is supported by numerous groups at the local level, including ski patrols, BC Parks, SAR groups, and snowmobile clubs. We sincerely appreciate the volunteer efforts that go into hosting these annual events. Through these grass root connections we are able to share avalanche awareness messaging with thousands of people throughout the country. Events hosted by Apex Mountain Resort, Fernie Alpine Resort, and Castle Mountain Resort served as fundraisers for Avalanche Canada. Save the date for next year: Avalanche Awareness Days will be held Jan. 18-19, 2020.


Education and Outreach

ASA Bursary Program Avalanche Canada has good partners in helping to remove barriers for snowmobilers to become more avalanche educated. One of those partners, the Alberta Snowmobile Association (ASA), has offered an AST bursary program for the past three years. The program fully reimburses members for an AST 1 or AST 2 course. This is open to all individual ASA members and members of ASA clubs. Last season they paid for 50 courses for members. This program will be available in the 2019-20 season and we are looking forward to helping to promote these programs.

BRP Avalanche Safety Seminars For the past 10 years, Ski-Doo has been offering free avalanche safety seminars for riders of all makes of snowmobiles. These free sessions are offered throughout western Canada and the US at participating dealerships. Over 20,000 snowmobilers have attended Ski-Doo sponsored avalanche awareness seminars since 2009. The seminars are delivered by presenters who are qualified avalanche professionals. They target all riders, independent of their skill level and avalanche knowledge, to encourage them to get an avalanche training course.

Connecting with the mountain snowmobiling community continues to be one of our top priorities. Image: Curtis Pawliuk

Snowmobile Outreach Avalanche Canada has had a dedicated snowmobile outreach program since 2011. Effective engagement with the snowmobile community is one of our top priorities. We make significant efforts to make and maintain connections throughout Western Canada, with a specific emphasis on reaching riders in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Our snowmobile coordinator Brent Strand attended major snowmobile shows in Edmonton, Saskatoon, and Vernon, communicating directly with almost 500 people. Thousands of people attend these shows so they are a great way to meet these users. We also connected with snowmobile clubs in Revelstoke, Golden, Valemount, Lumby/Mabel Lake, and Sicamous. • Alberta Snowmobile and Powersports Show, Edmonton, AB. October 12-14, 2018 • Saskatchewan Snowmobile Show, Saskatoon, SK. November 2-4, 2018 • BC Snow Show, Vernon, BC. November 9-10, 2018

SledCom Our snowmobile committee (SledCom) was established in 2009 with the purpose of better understanding and meeting the avalanche safety needs of the snowmobiling community. Over the years, SledCom has been an effective voice for the community, providing Avalanche Canada with valuable feedback, networking and programming suggestions. SledCom members are representatives from the greater snowmobile community. Many thanks to the following who are contributing time and energy to this important role. Brent Strand (chair) Lisa Block Gen Byl Trish Drinkle

Brittney Dickson Curtis Pawliuk Ken Zasada

Sled Sponsors Thanks to an agreement with the International Snowmobile Manufacturer’s Association (ISMA), each year we receive loaner mountain snowmobiles for our field team, forecasters and outreach staff to use throughout the season. Snowmobiles are an essential part of our programs, helping us collect data for our forecasts, installing weather stations and allowing our teams to engage with users in the field. In fact, the majority of the work we do in the field utilizes snowmobiles. Thanks to the following dealerships and manufacturers for supplying these loaner machines: • Mountain Motor Sports, Golden, BC o 2019 Polaris Pro RMK 850 163 •Banner Recreation and Marine, Vernon, BC o 2019 BRP Ski Doo Summit SP 850 165 • Shuswap Xtreme Recreation, Salmon Arm, BC o 2019 Arctic Cat Alpha One M6000 154

Avalanche Canada works with the following provincial snowmobile organizations.


2017-18 Avalanche Fatality Statistics

Canadian Fatal Avalanches Over the past year, 12 people were killed in avalanches. Although slightly above the 10-year average, the declining trend is noteworthy. Because the number of people killed in any single winter can fluctuate wildly, we use an average of the ten most recent years to smooth the data and identify trends. This ten year moving average peaked in 2004 at 15 and has steadily declined to its current level of 11. Notably, this is the lowest it's been since 1997. This is somewhat remarkable given both the increase in the number of people recreating in avalanche terrain, and the type of activities people pursue. In 1997, free-riding wasn't part of our vocabulary and mountain snowmobiling was in its infancy. Last year snowmobiling made up one-third of fatalities (four people) and backcountry skiing one-quarter (three people). One snowshoer was killed. Mountaineering and ice-climbing fatalities were higher than usual with four fatalities (one-third of total). Fully half of the winter fatalities occurred in national parks and one occurred in Newfoundland & Labrador. At Avalanche Canada everything we do, directly or indirectly, is undertaken to further our goals of helping people manage their avalanche risk while recreating. Measuring the effectiveness of our public avalanche safety programs is fraught with challenges. While fatality trends are an obvious metric (these numbers are accurate and complete), they are only part of the story. We have no way of knowing the total number of backcountry users and without that we can't know the true accident rate. Accident rates—the number of accidents in comparison with the number of users—are the holy grail for accident prevention programs. Still, even without actual numbers, we know use is on the rise. Backcountry skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing are no longer fringe or extreme adventure sports; they're mainstream activities. Given this context, the fact that avalanche fatality trends have steadily declined is heartening. This success is a reflection, in part, of sustained public safety efforts by Avalanche Canada and a spectrum of partners and supporters. We are dedicated to continuing this trend for many years to come

Annual Avalanche Fatalities in Canada Showing 10 Year Moving Average


25 20 15 10






















Avalanche Fatalities 2010 – 2019 By Location

British Columbia













Newfoundland & Labrador

Total 109

Avalanche Fatalities 2010 – 2019 By Activity Snowmobiling


Backcountry Skiing


Out-of-Bounds Skiing

Snowshoeing and Hiking


Guided Skiing


Putting it into Perspective

3 12 5 10 8

Total 123

Thoughts on Avalanche Fatality Statistics

Not everything that counts can be counted

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. We do know backcountry use is on the rise. The backcountry skiing market, once niche, is now attracting the attention and investment from major ski companies. Mountain snowmobiles are a growth product for manufactures. And there is a noticeable increase in media coverage of backcountry activities, from newspapers to broadcast media to speciality magazines. Backcountry use is becoming ‘normalized’ as more people venture into the winter wilderness. In light of this growth in users, the relatively stable trend in avalanche fatalities reflects positively on our efforts. Through awareness and education, we continue to encourage the respectful and responsible use of Canada’s magnificent winter mountain terrain.


Financial Summary

Allocation of Expenses Public Avalanche Warning Service 1,438,399

Total revenues for Avalanche Canada operations were just over $2 million, which is slightly higher than last year. Expenses for the year were $1.99 million leaving a surplus of just under $13,000.

Outreach 178,814 Youth Programs


Avalanche Skills Training Program


Projects 45,502

The AvID project which is separate from AvCan operations and funded by the National Search and Rescue Secretariat, had revenues and expenses of $392,065.



Expenses by Category Operating Revenue by Source



Office, Overhead, Insurance & Misc. 234,086 Travel 137,693 Government (Federal, BC and AB) 784,000

Amortization 79,620

Sponsorships 406,869

Advertising & Printing


BC Gaming Grant


Contracted Services


Retail Sales


Training & Professional Fees


Other* 93,252

Board & Consulting Expenses


Project Revenue


Research 7,500

AST Contributions**


Repairs, maintenance, small equipment 42,584

Avalanche Canada Foundation Grant 35,816 Membership Dues


Donations 16,707 Total


*Amortization, freight, interest, recovered costs. **Includes $20,000 for the AST Intellectual Property Renewal.



“We are so grateful for the continued partnership and joint efforts to promote backcountry safety and awareness within the Elk Valley. Through the informative feature article in the seasonal trail guide encouraging the use of the Mountain Information Network, participation in the highly successful snowmobile avalanche awareness days event, and the educational and eye-catching social media posts, your team plays an essential role in the reduction of sled incidents and enhancing the culture of safety in our snowmobile community. We would specifically like to highlight the unique value of the face-to-face interactions at our events and through your general accessibility in the field. These efforts have truly helped our organization change the receptiveness of riders within our community towards avalanche awareness.� Executive Team Fernie Snowmobile Association

"Members of the Alpine Club of Canada are passionate about climbing, hiking, and skiing in alpine environments. We have a world-renowned network of backcountry huts throughout the mountains of Western Canada, and run many winter skill camps, all of which bring club members and guests deep into avalanche terrain. We rely on the public forecasts produced by Avalanche Canada to ensure these adventures are planned accordingly, and allow everyone to return home safely. We are proud of our long-standing support and partnership with Avalanche Canada and tremendously grateful for the programs and services they provided." Lawrence White Executive Director Alpine Club of Canada

"Tourism Revelstoke is a destination marketing organization that connects the world to Revelstoke by inspiring travelers to experience our mountain destination. We accomplish this through partnerships with local stakeholders, and we are proud to support Avalanche Canada as a key partner. Backcountry adventure embodies the spirit of Revelstoke, and we cannot promote backcountry travel without highlighting the element of safety and respect for the mountains. As more of our visitors venture further, we are committed to making sure they have the knowledge, skills, and safety tools to be out there. We are extremely grateful for Avalanche Canada’s public safety programs, and consistently refer our visitors directly to them in all backcountry promotion." Meghan Tabor Marketing Director Tourism Revelstoke 37

Funding Partners

Government Stakeholders Avalanche Canada is grateful for the support of the following government ministries and departments:

Province of British Columbia

Government of Canada

Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General Emergency Management BC BC Coroners Service

Environment and Climate Change Canada Meteorological Service of Canada Parks Canada

Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing Community Gaming Grants

Ministry of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness National Search and Rescue Secretariat

Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure Avalanche and Weather Programs Ministry of Forest, Lands, Natural Resources Operations & Rural Development Recreation Sites and Trails GeoBC Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy BC Parks Snow Survey Program Ministry of Citizens' Services DataBC

Government of Alberta Ministry of Environment and Parks

Sponsors Our sponsors are essential to public avalanche safety in Canada. We rely on sponsor funding for our Public Avalanche Warning Service, public outreach, and many of our education programs.

Program Partners

Premier Sponsors


Funding Partners











Looking Forward

New Field Teams Avalanche Canada’s South Rockies field team has emerged as leaders in fostering a culture of avalanche safety in their region. As we implement new field teams in the North Rockies and the Yukon, we hope to emulate that winning formula. We are especially excited about expanding our services to the North Rockies. This region has long been a source of concern for us, with a large user base, a history of fatalities, and a lack of data to create a regular forecast. Both of these new field teams will follow the South Rockies model by collecting snowpack data, conducting outreach, and engaging local users on social media.

Bilingual Products As part of becoming a truly national organization, we will be providing more products and services in French. Currently, we have translated our online tutorial and our AST Handbook, and we are striving to offer more of our work in French. We will prioritize our efforts in order to have the greatest impact possible with the resources available. We have a close partnership with Avalanche Quebec and are looking to increased collaboration as we move in this direction.

Increased Staffing As we implement our National Strategy, we are simultaneously bringing on more staff at our Revelstoke office. We have hired a communications assistant, financial assistant, and new forecasters, and will be hiring a third IT person. These moves are designed to stabilize our existing programs, build resiliency, and increase capacity going forward. We have hired a building manager to coordinate upgrades our Revelstoke office so we can accommodate these extra personnel.

Reaching New Users We are increasing our efforts to reach new backcountry users, particularly snowshoers, hikers, and new Canadians. There have been several high-profile fatalities and near-misses involving people who were unprepared and unaware of the risk of traveling in avalanche terrain. We are creating a new landing page on our website for this new user group, and developing resources to increase their safety and their awareness of winter backcountry risks.

Image: Lori Zacaruk 41

Our People

Avalanche Canada Board of Directors

Avalanche Canada Staff 2017-18

President Kevin Seel

Executive Director Gilles Valade

Vice-President Kevin Williams

Avalanche Warning Service Manager Karl Klassen

Treasurer Mike McMynn

IT Manager Will Harding

Secretary Cheryl Goodwin Directors Richard Bergen Paul Chatteron John Irvine William Jackson Terry Palechuk Curtis Pawliuk Jeremy Shier

The members of the board of directors are very engaged and bring a wide set of complementary skills and expertise necessary for the governance of Avalanche Canada. The board meets regularly via conference calls five to six times per year and through faceto-face meetings on another two to three occasions. The board's executive committee generally meets weekly during operating season and every two weeks during slower periods.

Communications Director Mary Clayton Sponsorship and Marketing Jennifer George Education and Outreach Coordinator Nancy Geismar Forecasting Program Supervisors James Floyer Ilya Storm Avalanche Forecasters Mark Bender, Mike Conlan, Kate Devine, Lisa Drier, Colin Garritty, Grant Helgeson, Simon Horton, Diana Saly, Josh Smith, Shannon Werner Web Developer Karl Guillotte Communications Assistant Alex Cooper Youth Education Coordinator Shannon Werner Social Media Coordinator Sarah Taylor Snowmobile Outreach Coordinator Brent Strand Comptroller Janis Borden South Rockies Field Team Jen Coulter, Martina Halik, Lisa Larson

2018-19 Annual Report

Image: Brad White


Avalanche Canada Foundation

A Message from the President It has been a building year in many respects. We got off to a great start at the AGM with the election of five new board members: Adam Campbell from Canmore, Robbie Dixon from Whistler, Quinn Ingham from Vancouver, Julia LoVecchio from Banff, and James Titterton from Calgary. They have all jumped in and rolled up their sleeves. We also properly constituted important committees of the board for finance & audit, nominations and recruitment, and investment. Also, with support from the Calgary Foundation, we completed the roll-out of a new CRM (constituent relationship management) system. And early in the year, the foundation granted $100,000 to Avalanche Canada for the purchase of a much-needed office building to act as a base of operations in Revelstoke. The big news this year is of course the federal government’s $25 million endowment in support of Avalanche Canada’s work. The foundation is the recipient of the funds. It will hold and manage the funds, while Avalanche Canada will focus on delivering the plans and programs that will truly make it Canada’s national public avalanche safety agency. Once a three-way agreement was put in place between the government, Avalanche Canada and the foundation, the funds were deposited with the foundation in early July 2019. The need for fundraising for avalanche safety has never been stronger. Even as Avalanche Canada launches its expansion of services enabled by the federal government grant, continued support is needed for outreach programs, research and other public safety initiatives. Please renew your support for the foundation with a donation and plan to attend one of our fundraising events. Together, we are making a difference

Gordon Ritchie, President

The Art for Avalanche Canada Whistler fundraiser was once again a highly successful evening. Below, Tim Haggerty, avalanche forecaster at Whistler Mountain, was one of the many volunteers that helped make the event so memorable. Images: Warren Zelman

Fundraising Art for Avalanche Canada, Whistler, March 23, 2019 Another successful event was held at the stunning Audain Art Museum contributing almost $45,000 to the Avalanche Canada Foundation. Thanks to presenting sponsor, Maggie Thornhill and Engel & VĂślkers Whistler for supporting the event. The evening started with a glass of sparkling wine compliments of Blue Mountain Vineyard, a host bar supported by Painted Rock Estate Winery and Brassneck Brewery, an outstanding spread of delicious treats from The Collective Kitchen and ended with live music generously donated by local musicians "The Combat Dolphins."

Spin for Snow Safety, Vancouver, November 1, 2018 Once again, this annual fundraiser was held at Method Indoor Cycling in West Vancouver. Twenty-four riders and their supporters raised close to $14,000 for avalanche safety in Canada. Congratulations to the top fundraisers: Geoff Geldart, Jamie Macklem and Ella Wilson, who walked away with some great prizes for their efforts. Thank you to all the riders and everyone who supported them and a special thank you to our sponsors: Arc’teryx, Sombrio, Robbie Dixon & Mike Douglas, and Jamie Armstrong of Method Cycling and Innovation Fitness in Vancouver.

Image: Lital Marom


Avalanche Canada Foundation

Fund Development Coordinator The ACF board was delighted to welcome Michele Dauphinee to the position of fund development coordinator. Michele moves into this role after being the event coordinator of the foundation's annual Calgary fundraiser for several years. Her new role will include coordinating other ACF fundraisers, improving donor stewardship, and reaching out to new donors. Michele will work closely with the board to enhance communication with supporters.

Avalanche Canada Foundation Board of Directors President Gordon Ritchie Vice-President Keenan Cannady Treasurer James Titterton Secretary Adam Campbell Directors Robbie Dixon Jim Hall Ted Hincks Quinn Ingham Julia LoVecchio Leah Plumridge David Thompson Gilles Valade Kevin Williams

Fund Development Coordinator Michele Dauphinee Office Adminstration Pattie Roozendaal

Image: Silas Patterson

Grants and Awards

Financial Summary

In addition to $25,000 of funding to Avalanche Canada for public bulletins and youth programs, the Foundation provided $40,000 in support of the Research Chair in Avalanche Risk Management at Simon Fraser University.

The financial position of the foundation remains strong. A decline in total revenues this year reflected the deferral of the 2019 Calgary fundraiser to the fall and lower corporate donations. In 2019, total assets declined to about $800,000 from $979,000. The Foundation provided $86,162 in support of avalanche safety: $40,000 for research at Simon Fraser University, $25,000 in support of Avalanche Canada’s public safety bulletins and youth programs, and $21,162 in other grants and scholarships. Additionally, $100,000 was granted to Avalanche Canada for the purchase of their building. Increased office and overhead expenses reflect the implementation of a new Constituent Relationship Management system and Fund Development Coordinator.

Revenues 2018

Avalanche Canada highlights • $15,000 for youth education thanks to the Hugh & Helen Hincks Memorial Fund • $10,000 in support of public safety bulletins • $100,000 for purchase of an office building in Revelstoke

Craig Kelly Memorial Fund • One award of $1,000 Al Hodgson Memorial Fund • One award of $1,500 Simon Fraser University • $40,000 was granted in support of the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Avalanche Risk Management. This is the fourth year of a seven-year commitment totalling $240,000


Deferred Contributions**


Individual Donations


Corporate Donations


Other 10,779 Total


*Fundraising revenue less fundraising expenditures. **Contributions for University Research and Scholarships.

ISSW Fund • Four awards totalling $17,162 Cora Shea Fund • Two awards totalling $1,500

Net Fundraising*

Expenditures 2018

Funding to Avalanche Canada 125,000 Grants to Simon Fraser Univ.


Office & Overhead***


Other Grants and Scholarships 21,162 Total


***Includes office, professional fees, travel, insurance and bank fees.

NOTE: All information is from the Foundation’s audited year-end financial statements as at June 30, 2019.


Avalanche Canada Foundation

Supporters Organizations and individuals who have made three-year funding committments are recognized as Founders.

Founding Friends Contributing $5000 annually for three years. Brad & Tanya The Polar Zumwalt Foundation Anonymous Donor

Damon Ockey

Founding Contributors Contributing over $250 annually for three years. J Bruce Jamieson Keenan Cannady

Ken Little Kory Fawcett

Kevin Williams

Supporting Foundations

Gordon & Debbie Ritchie Edward Hincks

Event Sponsors Art for Avalanche Canada

PO Box 8800 Canmore, AB T1W 0C1 T 403.678.1235 49

Image: Mark Bender

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