Avalanche Canada 2020 Annual Report

Page 1

2019-20 Annual Report


02 Message from the President 03 Message from the Executive Director 04 Communications Spreading the Word Social Media Avalanche Ambassadors

12 Our Community Avalanche QuĂŠbec BC Gaming Capital Grant Fundraising Gordon Ritchie Service Award

19 Public Avalanche Warning Service AvID Launch Mountain Weather Forecast ATES Mapping Downloads Mountain Information Network Field Teams Kakwa Initiatives Research

26 Education and Outreach Avalanche Canada Training Programs AST Handbooks AST 2 Curriculum Update Youth Programs Outreach Snowmobile Outreach

34 Avalanche Fatalities 36 Financial Summary 38 Funding Partners 41 Looking Ahead 42 Our People 44 Avalanche Canada Foundation Message from the President Fundraising Grants and Awards Financial Summary Supporters and Sponsors

Cover Image: Martina Halik, the leader of our North Rockies field team, conducts a snowpack test in the Bijoux riding area. This new field team enabled us to produce regular forecasts for the North Rockies for the first time. Image: Dave Merritt

Vision To inspire, engage, and empower recreationists to enjoy Canada's winter backcountry and be safe from avalanches.

Mission To encourage and educate people to recreate safely in the winter backcountry by developing, coordinating, promoting, and delivering world-class public avalanche safety programs 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.

Image: Ian Coble

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


A Message from the President “Never a dull moment" is a fitting aphorism for Avalanche Canada. Thanks to funding from our federal endowment, the 2019/20 season saw Avalanche Canada ambitiously ramping up our planned expansion of operations and services based on our national strategy business plan. As this annual report can attest, things moved very well until, as you might expect, plans became very uncertain as a result of the global pandemic. We quickly shifted our focus to other critical priorities, such as the health and welfare of our staff and COVID-19 messaging around recreational backcountry use. I would like to say that much of that is behind us as we look forward to the new season, but the reality is that nobody really knows how the upcoming season will pan out. That said, we have a very robust and adaptive strategy to manage through what will likely be more challenging and uncertain times, just as we always do. A key focus of the boards of both Avalanche Canada and the Avalanche Canada Foundation over the past 12 months has been the scrupulous and transparent stewardship of our federal endowment and its proceeds. Our contribution agreement with the federal government was extremely clear in its expectations of how the fund would be managed and we have made every effort to meet or exceed those expectations. Not a dollar has been spent without proper oversight and a great deal of scrutiny. We have also implemented a tiered review process for both our annual fiscal budget and major expenditures that involves the collaboration of our board, through our treasurer, with key staff. Each decision is ultimately backed by a formal resolution. Since 2013, our finances have been fully audited by a reputable external auditor, MNP, which reports its findings directly to the board. The results of those audits are then made public through this annual report. We also file an annual report and business plan to the federal government each July detailing our financial business activities for the previous year and describing any variances or planned deviations from our stated business plan. In short, I believe that Canadian taxpayers can be confident that we are fully accountable and doing the very best job we can of managing their endowment in support of public avalanche safety. I sincerely hope that ALL of us will be able to enjoy the winter backcountry in the coming months, safely as well as healthily. .. . Kevin Seel, President

The boards of Avalanche Canada and the Avalanche Canada Foundation held a joint retreat in Valemount, BC, in February. Outside sessions included a companion rescue training session. Image: Brent Strand

A Message from the Executive Director Twelve months ago, we hit the road running as we successfully deployed the first year of our 15-year business plan under the new federal endowment. The initial year of this plan called for the shoring up of existing services and the expansion of our field program. We successfully added capacity and staffing to our existing services and established new field teams in two regions—the North Rockies and the Yukon. Field teams play key roles in our engagement with local communities, and also provide data that allows us to issue regular forecasts for those regions. With these new field teams we now issue regular forecasts for 14 different regions. Although we didn’t have much time to prepare, we pulled off this significant increase in productivity quite successfully, thanks to a collective effort. And then, COVID hit. Like everyone else, we went from being proactive, business as usual, to “a new plan every day” reactive mode. We made the decision to shut down our outreach and field operations early and, by the end of March, stopped issuing forecasts. We have spent the off-season working on projects and getting ready for what will undoubtedly be an unpredictable season of unknowns and surprises. We are very grateful for the federal endowment, which is a critical component of our future and stability. But we are not out of the woods yet. Private and corporate sponsorships have been on a slow decline for a few years and COVID has only amplified and accelerated that trend. We are now at a point where sponsorships will be reduced to a very small portion of our funding. The most problematic funding source is the Government of BC. In May of 2019, BC publicly committed to more funding. That increase has yet to occur and in fact, BC’s funding will be down significantly this year. Until this is resolved we will not be able to continue our expansion to the remaining under-served regions in BC. If the past summer is any indication, we are looking ahead to a busy winter with increased backcountry recreation. We anticipate an even greater demand for our products and service, combined with a possible disruption of the data stream necessary to produce our forecasts and communicate with backcountry users. Not good timing considering our BC government funding challenges. COVID is changing how we work but it hasn’t changed what we do. No matter what challenges we face, we will be here and ready. And none of what we do would be possible without the collective effort of all the dedicated employees at AvCan. Many thanks to each and every one of them. Be safe and have a great winter.

Gilles Valade, Executive Director



Spreading the Word Our communication efforts expanded significantly over the past year. In January, we issued a special public avalanche warning for eastern Newfoundland after a record-breaking storm left the capital St. John’s snowbound and caused an avalanche to crash into a home in the city’s Battery neighbourhood. After the historic storm hit on January 17, we issued a news release warning people to avoid open slopes steep enough to produce an avalanche. We were also concerned about the formation of cornices from the strong winds and gave some advice on identifying and avoiding that hazard as well. The release was picked up widely by media outlets in that province, demonstrating our national reach. This expansion of our communication efforts also saw us reach a wider audience. We substantially increased our efforts to reach new backcountry users—those without any training, perhaps intimidated or confused by the forecasts, and unfamiliar with the concepts of avalanche danger. There have been a number of serious incidents, including fatalities, in recent years involving people who were unprepared and likely totally unaware they were in avalanche terrain. The need to reach this user group has never been greater. In the fall, we held some very successful outreach events aimed at this user group (see page 31 for more). We also created a new page on our website called `Fresh to the Backcountry` that gives these users a quick and simple introduction to basic concepts such as identifying avalanche terrain, recognizing when avalanche conditions are worsening, and understanding the forecast. In our role as the national public avalanche safety organization, we work closely with both Parks Canada and Alberta’s Kananaskis Country. We are very proud of our excellent relationships with both of these agencies, and together we have developed some highly effective communication initiatives. Those close partnerships really paid off when the Covid-19 pandemic first hit in the spring. Together, we made the unprecedented decision to stop forecasting early in an effort to support public health officials who were asking Canadians to stay home. All three forecasting agencies stopped issuing bulletins on March 30, taking a stand in a united and coordinated effort, communicating clearly with one voice, asking our users to respect the needs of the greater community. It was an extraordinary moment in our history.

It’s wonderful to see more people enjoying the winter backcountry but new users can be unaware of avalanche risk. Our communications team has been developing new tools and programs to reach these users with basic information and encouragement to take more training. Image: Alberta Parks

While our focus is the backcountry, not urban areas, when a record-breaking storm hit Newfoundland in mid-January, 2020, we knew avalanche danger was a possibility. The slow-moving storm dropped a massive amount of snow, making any steep slope potentially hazardous. We worked quickly with local media to alert residents of St John’s and the surrounding area to help them identify terrain that should be avoided until the storm subsided. Image: Weather Network

COVID Effect After the early end of the forecasting season, our social media channels were used to share the message that forecasts were going to stop and why. We then transitioned into a summer pattern of posting, which meant a reduction in posts and a careful focus on ensuring they were not encouraging backcountry travel. Although overall our channels saw good growth this season, this early interruption to our usual posting schedule slowed the growth we might have expected to see in the spring.



Social Media We grew our following on all social media platforms throughout the 2019-20 season. Our strategy of using our social media channels to engage with our audience and using our channels to positively reinforce our messaging has helped us to increase our reach and grow our influence online. More content was made in-house this season, which was well received by our followers and shared widely. We continued using paid social media to target audiences and deliver key messaging more effectively, especially for SPAWs and forecaster blogs. This season also saw us achieve the verification of our Facebook account. Our social media is used to drive traffic to our website. Although overall web sessions from social media are down from last season (likely due to the truncated season), users from social media are spending more time on the site on average than last year. There has also been an increase in traffic reaching avalanche.ca from Instagram and Twitter.

Boondock Nation Collaboration We worked with worked with video production company Boondock Nation to create two video pieces designed to target snowmobilers. They created a short piece featuring professional riders stressing that they only ride with people who are prepared and trained. This piece was formatted for social media and encourages riders to think about who they ride with. We also collaborated on a larger project with the Boondock team, Tourism Valemount, and Frozen Pirate Snow Services. This project led to a series of YouTube videos showing the team of professional riders going to Valemount and taking an Avalanche Canada AST 1 course. The videos highlighted both the importance of getting the training and that taking a course can be a fun trip to build into the snowmobiling season. They were shared on social media channels for Boondock Nation and Tourism Valemount, in addition to our own. This project was received incredibly well by our followers.

"I really appreciate Avalanche Canada working with us to make this project a reality. The information the team gained was incredibly valuable and their approach to riding safety has completely transformed since the course. I hope they never have to use many of the things they learned, but I'm so thankful that they have the knowledge to keep each other safe." Whitney Grimmett, Director of Operations Boondock Nation


% increase

South Rockies % increase

North Rockies % increase


23,421 4.3 3,560 13.9 539 276.9 258


% increase

South Rockies % increase

North Rockies % increase


22,837 42.8 3,167 33.6 1,056 40.4 423

Page views 2,639,994 Unique page views 2,054,017 Sessions 1,062,524 % increase 9.6 Avg. time on page 1:22

Subscribers % increase Video views Watch time Impressions

246 47.8 3,120 188.7 hrs 21,848

Followers % increase Web sessions

Subscribers % increase Video views Impressions

268 6.1 66,300 689,100

7,871 5.7 7,747 7

Social Media Initiatives This season, we focused on using our social media presence to help reach groups of backcountry users who might not traditionally engage with our products. Out of Bounds Video We produced a video featuring professional skiers and snowboarders targeted at out of bounds backcountry users. This video was formatted for sharing on social media, but its distribution was halted by the closure of ski areas during the Covid-19 crisis. It will now be rolled out next season.

Destination BC Destination BC is a provincial Crown corporation that leads the marketing of British Columbia as a tourist destination and promotes the development and growth of the provincial tourism industry. In March, we partnered with Destination BC to reach out to their visitor centres in an email newsletter with a short article outlining what products and services we offer that could help their visitors learn more about recreating safely in the backcountry in winter. We received good feedback on this email campaign and many requests for further information or resources.

Instagram Q&A As part of our plan to make our social media more interactive, we held two very popular Instagram ‘Q&A’ sessions this season, where our followers could ask our forecasters questions about avalanches, snow science, or working for Avalanche Canada. The response was impressive, with around 100 users submitting questions about everything from whether our field teams enjoy snowball fights to the thermodynamics of warming! The opportunity to engage directly with our followers was invaluable for our forecasters and we had lots of positive feedback from people who enjoyed reading the sessions.

Social Schedule

MIN To Win Contest We continued our weekly MIN to Win contest this season, with winners receiving an Avalanche Canada branded neck tube or GoggleSoc. The response to the competition continues to be enthusiastic.

Google Ads Another continuing initiative for this season was our Google Ads campaign, funded by a grant from Google. This allowed us to run two ad campaigns--one to drive traffic to our forecasts and the other to drive traffic to our ‘Start Here’ page for new backcountry users. These ads are displayed to users searching for avalanche or snow safety on Google Search.

Aspect Newsletter The Aspect e-newsletter is a key part of our communications. It goes out to partners, donors, sponsors, stakeholders, and anyone else interested in our work. It provides updates on our activities, previews upcoming projects, and discusses our successes and challenges. This year, we re-branded our newsletter, naming it The Aspect instead of Stakeholder News. With so much news spurred by our expansion, we increased its distribution, sending out six issues, up from four in past years. The Aspect has proven to be an invaluable method of communicating with our array of stakeholders in public avalanche safety. Forecaster Arienne Hanna on a field trip this winter. Image: Simon Horton



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 audiences 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 the last 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 Abby is a photographer and writer specializing in backcountry photoshoots and culture. She also regularly speaks at snow safety clinics and has created her own series of social events known as "Split Social,” aimed at educating and building a strong community for splitboarders, while instilling good communication between all backcountry users. Abby volunteers with Mountain Mentors and SheJumps, and works with Wheelie Creative to help increase female participation in the outdoors. Abby is supported both in front and behind the camera by Arc’teryx, Karakoram, Smith Optics, and G3 Gear.

Youth Ambassadors Avalanche Canada’s youth ambassador program leverages the social media power of a few young riders from across the country who demonstrate a strong commitment to backcountry safety, as well as to their sport. With their help and influence, our messages of awareness and safety can reach a wider audience. This year we diversified and expanded our youth ambassador team. Amy Ertel, a ski patroller at Whistler/ Blackcomb, is our first female youth ambassador, and Mason Kenyon, from Alberta, is our first snowmobiler. We also brought on Nathan Shears and Jonathan Walsh from Newfoundland. Returning to the team for a third season was Aleks Klassen. Well done team!

Aleks Klassen Revelstoke, BC @aleksklassen

Mason Kenyon Stony Plain, AB @mason.kenyon

Amy Ertel Whistler, BC @amyertell

Nathan Shears Rocky Harbour, NL @nathan_shears_

Jonathan Walsh Norris Point, NL @jonathann_walsh

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


Our Community

Avalanche Québec Avalanche Québec is based in the Chic-Choc Mountains of Québec’s Gaspé Peninsula. The 2019-2020 winter marked the 20th anniversary of the organization, the only centre of expertise in avalanche safety east of the Rockies. Avalanche Québec is a non-profit organization, with a mission to protect the public, prevent accidents and improve avalanche safety by providing a range of activities and services to raise awareness, inform and educate the population, mainly in Québec. Avalanche Québec and Avalanche Canada have a long-standing relationship and have collaborated on many initiatives over the years. This season, the first year of a funded national strategy for public avalanche safety in Canada, was an especially important one. Thanks to this federal funding, Avalanche Quebec is now able to provide daily avalanche bulletins for the Chic-Chocs. This allows the program to comply with the best practices and international standards, to align with Avalanche Canada services level, and to provide superior quality forecasts to the Gaspé backcountry users. Avalanche Québec has administered the Avalanche Canada Training programs in Québec since 2016. This includes support and supervision to instructors, advertising of courses, and the exclusive sale of course material. Over the past season, 848 students took an avalanche course in Québec, an increase of 5% compared to the previous season and up 51% since the start of this agreement. The relationship and increased collaboration between Avalanche Canada and Avalanche Québec contributes to the national strategy objective. Together, we aim to provide essential avalanche safety services wherever they are needed across the country, and support Avalanche Canada’s vision to become a truly national public avalanche safety organization.

Translation Projects One of Avalanche Canada’s goals is to become a truly national organization, providing services in both official languages. As we work towards that goal, we are offering more bilingual services and have been busy translating many of our products into French. This work will help raise our profile and make avalanche awareness more accessible nation-wide. We thank our colleagues at Avalanche Quebec for their invaluable help in this area. Last fall, we published the French translation of the ski version of our Avalanche Skills Training Handbook, and the snowmobile version of this book will be translated for the 2021 season. Our youth curriculum has also been translated and we were very proud to have it delivered in French over the 2019 - 2020 season. Thanks to Avalanche Quebec our avalanche and weather glossaries were translated this year, making these great educational resources available in both official languages. They also translated the Dangerator, the tool developed by Avalanche Canada in 2018 to guide users in developing their own danger ratings for regions that don’t receive a daily forecast. Lastly, this annual report will be translated and made available in French on our website.

Skills Exchange An Avalanche Quebec field technician inspects a slide deposit on the Mur des Patrouilleurs in the Chic-Choc Mountains. Image: Avalanche Quebec

This winter, James Floyer, forecasting program supervisor, and Mark Bender, senior avalanche forecaster, traveled to the Chic-Chocs in Quebec to spend time with our colleagues in eastern Canada. The visit was a great opportunity to become more familiar with how Avalanche Quebec works. James and Mark were able to visit several important recreational areas, see their forecasting operations, and participate in a multi-day Avalanche Awareness Days event. The group also held discussions about how best to deliver avalanche safety programs to Newfoundland & Labrador. It was a valuable visit that further solidified an already great partnership.


Our Community

BC Gaming Capital Project Grant In the fall of 2019 we received news that our application for a BC Gaming Capital Project Grant had been approved. These grants are for the purchase of capital assets for long-term use and require recipients to match the requested funding. We received $64,000 from this funding source, not quite half the cost of our $133,000 capital project. This helped fund the purchase of six new snowmobiles with the required accessories, communications equipment, and avalanche safety gear—all essential equipment for our expanded field teams. This equipment was allocated to our BC-based teams in the North Rockies, South Rockies, and Revelstoke. Mountain snowmobiles are integral to delivering our programs to British Columbians. They enable our forecasters, avalanche field teams, and snowmobile outreach staff to travel throughout popular backcountry snowmobile destinations across the province. Our field and forecasting staff collect essential data for our forecasts via snowmobiles and they also support many of our outreach initiatives, where our staff engage directly with backcountry users. Over the past 10 years we have had four snowmobiles loaned to us each winter by the members of the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association. This generosity is much appreciated and demonstrates the value we bring to the snowmobiling community. However, this program does not meet all our needs as our field teams expand. This grant provided the essential funding to fill the gap on our snowmobile and related equipment requirements.

Our field team made good use of the new Ski-Doo snowmobiles, purchased with help from a BC Gaming Capital Project Grant. Image: Jennifer Coulter

Grants BC Community Gaming Grants The Community Gaming Grants program distributes funds from commercial gambling revenues to not-for-profit organizations that deliver programs to communities throughout British Columbia. Since 2010, Avalanche Canada has been successful in applying annually for funding from BC Community Gaming Grants in the public safety sector as a provincial organization. We apply for $250,000 in funding for our public avalanche warning services, which includes forecasts, field teams, and special warnings; and our public outreach programs, which include workshops, awareness events, targeted user campaigns, education, and youth programs within BC. These types of grants require the recipient to maintain a commensurate amount of private funding through sponsorships and donations. Without private funding, we would not be able to leverage this important funding source. We are very grateful for BC Community Gaming Grants. This funding has been the backbone of our operations in BC for 10 years. Revelstoke Credit Union Community Giving Program Avalanche Canada has been the recipient of several Community Giving Grants over the years to support our Revelstoke-based programs. This year, we successfully applied for their capital grant program to supply $7,000 worth of new avalanche equipment for our Youth Toolbox program. AvCan’s toolboxes are a very popular resource that are offered to schools and youth groups throughout BC and Alberta. The boxes contain a selection of transceivers, probes, and shovels to be used for hands-on education, but not in the field. The RCU grant funded a specific toolbox for Revelstoke-based youth courses and awareness programs. The RCU toolbox consists of new avalanche transceivers, probes, and shovels, all from Backcountry Access. The equipment in this particular toolbox will be maintained to a standard that allows the gear to be used in the field. Having a dedicated toolbox in Revelstoke has greatly improved our ability to support local youth programs. Offering these free courses is a great benefit to the community and it is essential that these students have the appropriate safety gear for these learning opportunities. Columbia Basin Trust The Community Initiatives and Affected Areas Program from the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) supports local projects that provide value to communities in the Columbia Basin communities. For the 2019-20 season, we received $3,500 from this program to support two outreach events: Staying Alive and the Canuck Splitfest. Both of these events help visitors and residents to prepare for winter backcountry adventures, and thus reduce or eliminate the need for Revelstoke Search and Rescue call outs for avalanche incidents. Both events benefit local businesses economically and they effectively promote Revelstoke’s tourism profile. Five of our 14 forecast regions are in the Columbia Basin, and this whole area is home to some of the most popular backcountry recreation in the province of BC. This particular grant is in addition to other CBT funding we receive for our youth programs and operations that benefit all of the communities within the Columbia Basin. Hugh & Helen Hincks Memorial Fund The Hugh & Helen Hincks Memorial Fund supports projects that are determined to have the greatest impact on youth education relating to avalanche safety. This fund has been supporting our direct classroom youth education for the past four years. In 2019-2020, we received $15,000 to support our youth programs in the North Rockies of Alberta, and the Shuswap region of BC. Over the past five years, our youth programs in these areas have seen continual growth in the number of communities we have engaged.


Our Community

Fundraising As a non-profit, non-government organization, we work hard to acquire grants, seek stakeholder support, work with sponsors, and 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. Splitfest & Wade Philip Galloway Legacy Foundation The 10th Annual Canuck Splitfest presented by Trapper Snowboards was a fantastic event held in Revelstoke, BC, from Jan. 10–12, that raised $13,200 for Avalanche Canada. Since 2011, Canuck Splitfest has raised over $74,000 for public avalanche safety programs. A huge thank you goes out to all of the sponsors, volunteers, presenters, and supporters who helped with fundraising efforts. Over 400 people from all over North America attended the Saturday night presentations, social, and raffle. This is the largest splitboard event of its kind and it is a significant fundraising event for AvCan. This year’s event featured presentations from Simon Horton of Avalanche Canada, Matt MacDonald of Environment Canada, Mike Wigley (aka Pow Slashing Wigley), and John Baldwin. The presentations were a great combination of technical and fun, covering education and adventure. Mark Hartley of Stoke Roasted Coffee returned as the emcee. He kept everyone fired up with his beans, brew, and one-liners. Adam Warkentin of Tradesman Manufacturing presented a heart-felt tribute to his friend, Wade Galloway, an avid splitboarder and founder of the Canuck Splitfest, who died in an avalanche in 2014. Adam announced a $10,000 donation to Avalanche Canada on behalf of Wade's father, Bill Galloway. Wade's legacy of community and giving back lives on. Presenting Sponsor Trapper Snowboards Gold Sponsors: Arc’teryx, Chimera, Eagle Pass Heliskiing, Intuition, Karakoram, Libtech, Pallas Snowboards, Phantom Splitboard Bindings, Prior, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, The Sandman Revelstoke, The North Face, Tourism Revelstoke, Venture Snowboards and Weston Backcountry Silver Sponsors Alpine Club of Canada, Backcountry Access / K2, Burton, Cheetah Factory Racing, Eric Poulin Photo, Free Spirit

Sports, Kootenay Mountain Culture, Nibz, Revelstoke Mountaineer, Spark R&D, Spline, Tradesman Manufacturing Bronze Sponsors Andrew Strain Photographer, CAPOW, Columbia Basin Trust, Dakine, POW Protect Our Winters, Revelstoke Snowboard Club, Society Snow & Skate, Splitboard.com, Splitboard HQ, Stoke Roasted Coffee, Westwood Design, Whitewater Ski Resort/Kootenay Cold Smoke Social Sponsors Mt. Begbie Brewing Co, Remax/Tara Sutherland, The Village Idiot, Whitetooth Brewing Co.

Grassroots Support We are continually grateful to receive financial and in-kind support from many individuals and organizations, including Alpine Club of Canada sections, the BC Mountaineering Club. We receive support from volunteers who collect donations on our behalf, and from the many organizations that are passionate about avalanche safety. In total, we record over $150,000 each year in in-kind support and volunteerism that directly supports our programs. Here are some highlights:

Rockies Shred Fest Hosted by Crowfoot Media, this kickoff to the ski season was held at Will Bill’s in Banff, AB, on October 17. The event featured local ski and snowboard films for an enthusiastic sold out crowd. Crowfoot Media has been donating a percentage of the ticket sales on behalf of Avalanche Canada for the past three years. In 2019 they collected over $900 for our programs. Thank you for your continued support!

Teadore Tea Company Thomas Poitras, the owner of Teadore Tea Company, a natural loose leaf tea company in Canmore AB, has developed two custom organic tea blends to sell as a fundraiser for public avalanche safety programs: Mochalanche and Mountain Mojito. Teadore has committed to donate 20% of gross sales to Avalanche Canada. Both products feature a unique label design featuring our logo elements. Both products are sold on the Teadore website and at select retailers in western Canada.

Lethbridge Backcountry Avalanche Workshop

Monod Sports There is no business like snow business. Katherine Erwin and Matt Monod of Monod Sports wanted to give back to avalanche safety so the iconic retail store in Banff, AB, took the initiative to design and produce t-shirts on behalf of Avalanche Canada. All proceeds from the t-shirt sales went to Avalanche Canada. So far, sales have raised over $900 for Avalanche Canada.

This workshop was held on December 2, 2019, thanks to two volunteer organizers: Lisa Block and Dan Webster. It featured presentations from our South Rockies avalanche field team and other local pros. The organizers collected over $600 in donations for our programs.

Crow Snowriders Poker Run On February 29, 2020, the Crow Snowriders from Crowsnest Pass, AB, held their annual poker run and fundraiser for Avalanche Canada. Our South Rockies field team was on hand to provide avalanche safety demonstrations. The event raised over $1,500, with auction items from our sponsors FXR Racing and BCA. 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 continued commitment to avalanche safety.

Merritt Snowmobile Club

Image: Eva Capazzola

This club donates annually to Avalanche Canada and we are grateful for their continued support. Their donation is based on the number of trail passes and memberships they sell.


Our Community

Gordon Ritchie Service Award Each year, Avalanche Canada presents the Gordon Ritchie Service Award to an individual or organization who has demonstrated exceptional dedication to public avalanche safety. This year, the award goes to Dominic Boucher, the long-time executive director of Avalanche Quebec. Dominic has played a leading role in promoting avalanche safety in Quebec for over 20 years. On Jan. 1, 1999, an avalanche struck a school in the remote community of Kangiqsualujjuaq, Quebec during a New Year’s celebration, killing nine and injuring 25. An inquiry into the tragedy called for the establishment of a centre of avalanche safety in the province. Dominic was tapped to lead the new Centre d’avalanche de la Haute Gaspésie. Over the years, he has overseen the organization as it has grown to become Avalanche Quebec, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. Avalanche Quebec provides education and outreach in La Belle Province, and produces daily avalanche forecasts for the Chic Choc Mountains. Dominic oversees a staff of seven that includes three avalanche technicians, three forecasters, and a communications specialist. Dominic has also been instrumental in developing the next generation of avalanche professionals in Quebec. Since 2004, he has taught over 200 students in their first level of professional training, the CAA Avalanche Operations Level 1. Avalanche Quebec is a key partner as Avalanche Canada implements its national strategy and we would not be here today without Dominic’s contributions.

Dominic Boucher proudly accepts the Gordon Ritchie Service Award in Quebec after his online reception with colleagues. Image: Julie LeBlanc

Public Avalanche Warning Service

AvID Launch The first phase of the Canadian Avalanche Information Distribution system (AvID) project ended on March 31 after three years of work. Phase two, which we are self-funding, is nearing completion. Phase three, which will run through the end of the 2020-21 fiscal year is in the planning stage. The AvID project included research to better understand the users of our services and assess the effectiveness of our forecasts. It also funded research to understand how our forecasters visualize and aggregate data in order to create improved visualization interfaces. This research supported the main objectives, which were to develop new forecasting software (AvIDfx) and new data aggregation and visualization software (AvIDdx). AvIDfx v1 successfully launched in November 2019. AvCan and Kananaskis Country forecasters have used it to produce forecasts all season. It has proven to be highly intuitive, making the transition to new software easy for forecasters, while also making them more efficient and saving time. AvIDdx v1 is in the final stages of development and is slated to launch for the 2020-21 season. The groundbreaking research conducted at Simon Fraser University has created a far better, deeper, and broader understanding of our users and the forecasting process than imagined. The preliminary results have played a significant role in guiding the software development and will eventually lead to improving avalanche risk communication in Canada and potentially world-wide.

Top: Avalanche Canada's Public Avalanche Warning Service training is a week-long affair. Here, forecasters and field team staff listen to Katie Fisher, a Master's student from Simon Fraser University's Avalanche Research Program who is conducting research on how users interpret our avalanche forecast. Bottom: Forecaster Grant Helgeson prototypes new forecasting tools being developed as part of the AvID project. Images: Alex Cooper

Many thanks to the National Search & Rescue Secretariat’s New Initiatives Fund for supporting this project. While this funding has ended, there’s still work to be done to research and build out the software to its full potential. We are working on organizing a consortium of agencies and organizations who will collaborate on funding and development of the AvID system into the future.


Public Avalanche Warning Service

Mountain Weather Forecast Backcountry enthusiasts in the Alberta Rockies were happy to see the Mountain Weather Forecast (MWF) expanded to include their playground. The MWF has been produced for Avalanche Canada by the Meteorological Service of Canada since January 2015 and has undergone several upgrades since. This winter, the forecasters at the Pacific Storm Prediction Centre in Vancouver began collaborating with the Arctic Storm Prediction Centre in Edmonton to include forecasts for the Canadian Rockies in their daily reports. As well, new images for the Alberta Rockies region were added, including forecast hourly precipitation, 12-hour precipitation, radar, and satellite imagery. The South Coast and Southern Interior regions also got new zoomed-in visible satellite animations from the GOES 17 satellite offering much higher resolution. All these upgrades allowed users to get a better look at upcoming weather in their region. To further assist weather followers, we added 27 weather stations to the map on our homepage. This brings the total available to 113! The stations track temperature, precipitation, wind speed, and more, helping users plan their days in the backcountry.

“Just a pat on the back(s) of those responsible for the mountain weather forecasts. And a special thanks for now including the Alberta Rockies, it's much appreciated, used daily.” ~ Wilf Petherbridge “Was very pleased to see the new Alberta Rockies section in the weather forecast. Thanks!” ~ Jim Laycraft “Wonderful news adding weather forecasting details for the Rockies. Thank you from me and surely from all the ski touring (and other) enthusiasts based in the Rockies.” ~ Wayne Gilrain

Yukon field team member James Minifie checks one of the weather stations in the new Yukon forecast region. Image: Jennifer Coulter

Online Trip Planner Providing people with tools to plan their days in the backcountry is an important part of what we do. This year, we put significant resources into making our avalanche terrain ratings downloadable, allowing people to use them while offline. Our online trip planner was re-launched this winter to give users the ability to download the maps of all the areas rated with the avalanche terrain exposure scale (ATES). Once downloaded, users can access these maps on their smartphones while they’re in the field, to aid in their decision-making process. All of the managed snowmobile areas in BC have been ATES-rated, as well as a number of BC provincial parks popular with backcountry users. This year, in partnership with Parks Canada, we were able to apply ATES ratings to all the mountainous terrain on the west coast of Newfoundland, in and around Gros Morne National Park. This terrain information was added to the online trip planner. The online trip planner integrates the Avaluator’s decision-support system. Once a user chooses an ATES-rated destination, the trip planner automatically applies the region’s current danger rating. The trip planner then displays whether backcountry travel in that destination requires normal caution, extra caution, or is not recommended.

Learn more at avalanche.ca/planning/trip-planner

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 data-sparse regions. Through social media contests, we used prizing as incentives to encourage adoption of the platform. In addition, our field teams created their own MIN posts on a weekly basis for their respective regions. They shared them across their region-specific social media, highlighting concerns in the snowpack while encouraging other local users to view the data and submit their own observations. While use of the MIN increases every winter, we continue to work on upgrades. MIN reports could become even more important if the professional observations we use to make our forecasts decline due to Covid-related shutdowns.

2019-20 stats MIN reports submitted: 2,522 MIN reports viewed: 597,215


Public Avalanche Warning Service

Field Teams Last winter was a big step forward for Avalanche Canada with the launch of two new field teams that allowed us to increase our presence and produce forecasts for two new regions. Thanks to our federal endowment, we were able to hire field teams for the North Rockies and Yukon, adding to our long-running South Rockies team. Each three-person team plays a valuable role in their respective regions. The teams collect snowpack, weather, and avalanche information in data-sparse areas for the forecasting office in Revelstoke, and conducts vital outreach with backcountry recreationists. South Rockies The South Rockies field team is a leader in avalanche awareness in its region and is the model for new Avalanche Canada field teams. Team members attend outreach events and have developed a strong social media following, making them a trusted resource for the backcountry community in the South Rockies region. In the winter of 2019-20, they played a key role in the second annual Elk Valley Snow and Avalanche Workshop. They were back at the Fernie Snowmobile Association’s Avalanche Awareness Days, helping to run the transceiver station. They interacted with many sledders, who were keen to ask questions and practice their search skills. They also attended the CrowSnow Riders poker run and the FSA Gumball Adventure Challenge, where they ran the avalanche rescue station. The South Rockies team has developed a highly successful model of promoting a culture of avalanche safety through outreach and social media. North Rockies Our new North Rockies field team worked hard to develop a new program last winter and was very well received in their region. Based out of Prince George and McBride, team members made field trips throughout the region, providing essential snowpack, weather, and avalanche observations so our forecasters in Revelstoke could produce the first ever avalanche forecasts for the North Rockies. Forecasts were published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday throughout the winter. In addition to their field work, the team was active on social media and in conducting outreach at trailheads and in the field. They attended Cabin Fever Days in Mackenzie and gave a presentation to the Prince George Snowmobile Club. They developed many connections in the region, which will help them expand their outreach going forward. Yukon The Yukon field team aims to address both data sparsity in a new forecast region and to provide localized avalanche risk communications and outreach to communities in northern BC and Yukon, with a focus on the White Pass area. Users in the area span numerous different backcountry modes of travel, including skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers, snowshoers, cross-country skiers, hikers, hunters, and trappers. The diversity of users and abilities is unique to the Yukon forecast region and to some extent this diversity is mirrored in the new team. The team worked on developing a social media presence and partnered with the Yukon Avalanche Association on outreach activities. In the team's inaugural year, much of the program was developed from scratch based on a framework from existing teams. This, in conjunction with the season being cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic, made for a dynamic and at times challenging season.


Top: North Rockies field team, from left: Dave Merritt, Martina Halik, and Ben Hawkins. Image: James Floyer Middle: Yukon field team, from left: James Minifie, Alastair Wain, and Drew Nylen. Image: Ilya Storm Bottom: Our field teams use skis and snowmobiles to access terrain. Pictured is Jennifer Coulter of the South Rockies field team. Image: Leslie Crawley

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. 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. Going into 2020-21, with so much uncertainty around backcountry operations due to Covid-19, we don’t know how much information will be shared through InfoEx. Our warning service is prepared for this and has strategies in place so we can continue to produce reliable public avalanche forecasts.


Public Avalanche Warning Service

Kakwa Initiatives We are continually striving to find new ways to deliver avalanche safety information to the public. This year, we launched a pilot project to deliver avalanche forecasts to snowmobilers in the Kakwa region in the North Rockies on the border of Alberta and BC. The Kakwa poses some unique challenges. It’s a remote park well used by mountain sledders. Most access the area from Alberta via a trail groomed by the Grand Prairie-based Swan City Snowmobile Club. Due to the remote location, riders set up camps just outside of the park border, typically spending several days recreating in the area where they are out of cellphone range and unable to access the daily avalanche forecast. Working with the Swan City Snowmobile Club, we developed a trailhead sign displaying a three-day forecast. The information was sent to the club’s trail groomer, who was tasked with updating the sign regularly. A simple approach, but initial feedback indicates this was an effective solution and one we will continue to develop for the coming season. We also tried a more technical approach. Many users of the Kakwa use Garmin InReach devices to communicate. Working with Garmin, we developed a method of sending out a basic forecast using this device. This approach was not as successful as we hoped and we are back to the drawing board on that idea. We learned some valuable lessons from these pilot projects and will continue to work with the users of the Kakwa area to bring them the essential information they need.

North Rockies field team member Martina Halik checks over the Kakwa trailhead sign at the beginning of the day. Image: James Floyer

Research 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 (SFU). We work closely with Pascal and his students on a variety of projects, particularly those topics that carry significant potential for improvements to avalanche safety. We are particularly excited about ongoing research into the efficacy of our avalanche forecasts in terms of risk communication. This work has included two comprehensive online surveys and led to two masters’ theses so far. It is leading to a better understanding of who our users are, how they use the avalanche forecast, and how well they are able to use the information we provide to manage risk. It will inform changes to our forecasts going forward.

COVID Effect Covid-19 had an immediate impact on our Public Avalanche Warning Service. First, we saw our data streams dry up as backcountry guiding operations closed. Then we made the decision to stop forecasting in order to discourage people from engaging in risky behaviour in the backcountry and putting undue pressure on SAR, first responders, and the health system. Going into 2020-21, we are committed to providing daily bulletins for our forecast regions throughout the winter. However, we are considering a number of potential effects to our public avalanche warning service resulting from having less data for our forecasts and health concerns at work.

Diagram from one of the terrain questions in the SFU survey to get a better understanding of who our users are. We are supporting a post-doctoral fellowship at SFU that is developing snowpack simulations using inputs from different weather forecast models. An operational version of snowpack modelling is currently being tested by forecasters and will be in place for the 2020-21 season using our new AvID data management software as the platform. In addition to operational modelling, SFU researchers are looking at ways to link these simulations to avalanche danger ratings and avalanche problems. Research is also being conducted into how our forecasters look at the data used to create avalanche bulletins. This has supported the development of the AvID data visualization dashboard for weather station data and is guiding the creation of additional data visualizations such as avalanche observations, all of which will assist forecasters in their daily work and improve their efficiency.

We have increased our budget and prepared contingency plans in case our data streams are impacted. We are also implementing a snowpack modelling system that will augment the data available to our forecasters and focus the data gathering by our field teams. We established a worker safety plan that will help prevent the spread of Covid-19 amongst our staff and help us deal with increased sick days should they arise. None of our forecasters or field teams will be conducting in-person outreach this winter.

Education and Outreach

Avalanche Canada Training Programs The number of students taking an Avalanche Canada Training course surpassed 10,000 for the fourth year in a row, despite an early end to the season caused by the pandemic. Overall, 10,173 people took one of our four courses over the 2019-20 winter, a 13 percent decrease from the previous winter. We expect enrolment would have been similar to 2018-19 if not for the lockdown put in place to curb the spread of Covid-19. We saw a big increase in the number of snowshoers taking an Avalanche Skills Training (AST) course. 639 snowshoers took a course last winter, a 55 per cent increase over the previous year! This jump can be attributed to our fall outreach sessions in Calgary and Vancouver that targeted this group, several course providers marketing directly at snowshoers, and the increase in popularity of the sport. Unfortunately, the number of snowmobilers taking a course was down by 41 per cent. Several factors may be at play here: the Covid-19 lockdown, the struggling oil sector in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and the fact there were no major snowmobile fatalities in the past couple years. We have seen that fatal avalanche incidents drive up enrolment. Avalanche Canada Training is renowned worldwide. There were 180 active, licensed AST providers last season. The majority are Canadian, but our courses are also delivered in Japan, Chile, France, Norway, Spain, Russia and Australia.





AST 1 Course Participants

AST 2 Course Participants

CRS Course Participants

MAT Course Participants





















Presented by
















AST Handbook Updates COVID Effect We published two new versions of our Avalanche Skills Training Handbook in the fall of 2019. A version of the book geared at snowmobilers was produced. Curtis Pawliuk, a snowmobile guide and AST instructor, worked on the new version with original authors James Floyer and Keith Robine. This sled version included 13 more pages, with specific information for snowmobilers on issues like group communication, terrain use, and travel habits. We were very happy to be able to release this book for this user group. We also translated the original version of the handbook into French thanks to our partners at Avalanche Quebec. A French translation of the sled version will be published in 2021. These new texts are a welcome addition to the AST curriculum. Some instructors are also finding it useful as a resource for AST 2 courses.

With the climate of uncertainty due to Covid-19, Avalanche Canada is working with ACT course providers to develop plans for flexible delivery of our courses in the 2020-21 season. Some options will include online delivery for a portion of the classroom curriculum. The field portion of the AST and Managing Avalanche Terrain courses is still a requirement and will not change, but there are options available for the delivery of the classroom portion.

AST 2 Curriculum Update An update to the AST 2 curriculum and instructor manual began in the summer of 2020 and is slated for release in time for the 2020-21 season. This update to the instructor manual will reflect the new AST Handbook and updates made to the AST 1 curriculum. An emphasis has been placed on using the daily process (developed in the AST Handbook) and human behaviours (aka human factors) throughout the curriculum. All the excellent instructional material found in the original instructor manual is included in this version. The updated version is re-formatted to be aligned with the AST 1 instructor manual and it will assist both veteran and new AST 2 instructors. It will include diagrams and activities to assist instructors in conveying various concepts. We’re excited to bring this updated resource to AST 2 instructors this season and believe it will enhance the learning of students as well.


Education and Outreach

Youth Programs Avalanche Canada expanded its youth outreach program in 2019-20, delivering classes in Northwest British Columbia, the Yukon, and in French for the first time ever. Thanks to generous support from our sponsors and partners, we were able to present snow and avalanche safety to 8,921 students at 87 different schools in BC, Alberta, and the Yukon last winter. This was made possible thanks to support from the Columbia Basin Trust, Parks Canada, and the Hugh & Helen Hincks Fund. AvCan supports external youth programs with resources, materials, and curriculum to assist teachers and parents who are interested in teaching basic avalanche education. Our website has a youth section where anyone can access resources, handouts, PowerPoints, and more to aid in their lesson plans. This year we supported the Girls Do Ski Youth AST 1 course, the Open Mountains Project, Scouts Canada, and others.

Regional Breakdown Columbia Basin—3,877 students Alberta North—1,017 students South Coast—1,395 students Yukon—222 students

Okanagan—723 students Bow Valley/Calgary—1,544 students Northwest Coast—143 students

Toolbox Program We were able to add a fifth box to our tool box program last winter. This box was made possible by a grant from the Revelstoke Credit Union and was used by Revelstoke-based programs like Girls Do Ski and The Open Mountains Project. We also received 30 new transceivers from MEC for the boxes. The toolbox program continues to be in high demand. We now have five boxes that hold about 20 sets of avalanche rescue gear each, including transceivers, probes, shovels, snow safety kits, and snow saws. These boxes circulate to schools throughout western Canada during the fall, winter, and spring, providing teachers with the gear and resources they need to teach avalanche rescue training. Over 900 students in 44 different school programs benefited from the program last year.

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 Josh Smith, Interim Coordinator Colin Adamson Alexandra Armstrong Abby Cooper

Brendan Cosgrove Brittany Dickson Sean Fraser Brandon Gulstene Breanne Johnson

Madeleine Martin-Preney Curtis Pawliuk Dave Quinn Mel Saarinen

Thanks to the Columbia Basin Trust and help from local ski resorts, we were once again able to provide subsidized AST 1 courses for secondary school students. This season, we certified 77 high school students in Valemount, Golden, Creston, Trail, Fruitvale, Rossland, and Cranbrook. Image: Curtis Pawliuk

“Josh’s presentation was engaging, very informative, and entertaining, with awesome videos and a well put together slideshow. The best part for me was the personal touch from Josh. The way he engaged with students, listened to their questions, and then provided real, honest and useful advice and responses was amazing to see as an educator.” Carl Light, Teacher École Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School Red Deer, 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


Education and Outreach

Avalanche Awareness Days Avalanche Awareness Days is a celebration of our winter heritage, an opportunity to learn more about our winter environment, and a way to build awareness of backcountry safety. In 2020, 28 events were held in BC, Alberta, Quebec, and the Yukon. Avalanche Awareness Days is a grassroots event, where local organizations such as ski resorts, snowmobile clubs, BC Parks, Parks Canada, search & rescue, and others host avalanche awareness activities in their area. We strongly appreciate the volunteer efforts that go into hosting these events. Through their efforts, we are able to share our messaging with thousands of people across the country. We are especially appreciative of the groups that use the occasion to raise money for Avalanche Canada. This includes the Fernie Snowmobile Association, Fernie Alpine Resort, Crow Snow Riders, Castle Mountain Resort, and Apex Mountain Resort. Many thanks to all donors for their generosity and on-going support of our services.

Dave Merritt, part of our North Rockies field team and also a member of Prince George SAR, leads a group through a rescue exercise, while playing the part of an avalanche victim during Cabin Days in Mackenzie, BC. Image: Michael Moen

Outreach Avalanche Canada’s outreach program is a key component in raising avalanche awareness. We reached more than 4,000 people at different events last winter before being shut down by Covid-19 in mid-March. Our biggest initiative was Heads Up, a series of events for new backcountry users in Calgary and Vancouver in November (see below). We also continued with many of our regular outreach events. Staying Alive Night is aimed at newcomers to ski resort communities. We work with partner agencies such as local SAR, local retailers, and of course the local ski areas. This year the event was hosted in Revelstoke in partnership with Revelstoke Mountain Resort and in Golden in partnership with Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Close to 550 people attended those two events. We also assisted MEC in delivering presentations at various stores for their “Winter Weekend” clinics on Nov. 23 and 24. Our outreach presenters delivered in seven different stores in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Montreal (where Avalanche Quebec presented). We partnered with CAPOW for Freshtival in Calgary and Shredfest Rockies in Banff. Backcountry Avalanche Workshops were held in Prince George, Kimberley, Cumberland, Whitehorse, Invermere, and Mackenzie. Our field teams in the South Rockies, North Rockies, and Yukon all played an active role at events in their regions. This was the first year having field teams in the North Rockies and the Yukon, allowing us to expand our presence in those regions. As usual, the South Rockies team was very active, taking part in the Elk Valley Snow & Avalanche Workshop, Lethbridge Backcountry Avalanche Workshop, Avalanche Awareness Days at Castle Mountain Resort, and events with regional snowmobile clubs.

Presentations Every year, our forecasters create new presentations and update old ones to use at our outreach events. Last winter, we created two new presentations. Being Pro looks at the daily process that avalanche professionals use to plan a day in the backcountry, and how they go about traveling in avalanche terrain. Ebb & Flow looked at typical versus exceptional avalanche conditions, and how to adjust to these changes.

COVID Effect We canceled all of our remaining outreach events in mid-March in response to the lockdown. It also forced us to rethink how we would conduct our outreach for the following winter. Due to the likely inability to host indoor events, we made the decision to move all of our outreach events online for the 2020-21 winter season.

AvCan Merchandise We’re branding everything! Neck tubes, ball caps, and goggle socs are all for sale through our office. Get yours today!

We significantly updated our presentation, Low-Probability, High-Consequence. This one looked at managing situations where the chance of triggering an avalanche is low, but the consequence of doing so is high. We also created a sled version of this presentation.

Heads Up More than 1,000 people attended the three events we hosted, all aimed at new backcountry users, last fall. Heads Up outreach events were focused on “unawares” - people, often snowshoers, with little to no awareness of backcountry avalanche danger. We held two events in Vancouver and North Vancouver, and a third in Calgary. We also created a new page on our website for these new users to begin their avalanche education journey. These efforts were made as part of our ongoing work to reach this demographic following several avalanche fatalities over the previous winters. Thank you to our partners for helping to organize these events and make them a success: the Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC, the UBC Varsity Outdoor club, and the University of Calgary Outdoor Program. 31

Education and Outreach

Snowmobile Outreach ASA Bursary Program Avalanche Canada has good partners in helping to remove barriers for snowmobilers to become more avalanche educated. One of those is the Alberta Snowmobile Association (ASA), which has provided a bursary program for the past four years that fully reimburses any of their members who take an AST 1 or AST 2 course. This program is open to all individual ASA members and members of ASA clubs.

BRP Avalanche Safety Seminars For the past 11 years, BRP (makers of 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 U.S. at participating dealerships. The seminars are delivered by qualified avalanche professionals and encourage all riders, independent of their skill level and avalanche knowledge, to get an avalanche training course. Many thanks to both of these partners for taking a lead role in advancing avalanche safety training for snowmobilers.

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 429 people. Thousands of people attend these shows so they are a great way to meet these users. • Alberta Snowmobile and Powersports Show, Edmonton, AB, October 18–20, 2019 • Saskatchewan Snowmobile Show, Saskatoon, SK, November 1–3, 2019 • BC Snow Show, Vernon, BC, November 8–9, 2018 We also directly connected with snowmobile clubs in Revelstoke, Golden, Valemount, Lumby/Mabel Lake, Enderby, and Sicamous.

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) Marty Anderson Lisa Block Gen Byl

Trish Drinkle Brittney Dickson Curtis Pawliuk

Avalanche Canada works with the following provincial snowmobile organizations.

Sled Sponsors We have had an agreement with the International Snowmobile Manufacturer’s Association (ISMA) for funding and to receive loaner mountain snowmobiles for our field team, forecasters, and outreach staff to use throughout the season. The majority of the work we do in the field requires mountain snowmobiles and the loaner program has helped fill the gaps for us as we slowly develop our own fleet. We would like to thank Polaris Industries for continuing to provide a loaner snowmobile for our field team use. • Our 2020 Polaris Pro RMK 850 was provided by Mountain Motor Sports, Golden, BC.

Ben Hawkins taking advantage of the easy access with the Polaris 850 Khaos donated sled. Image: Raven Eye Photography


Canadian Fatal Avalanches

2017-18 Avalanche Fatality Statistics

The annual average number of avalanche fatalities in Canada continues to trend downwards, even as winter backcountry recreation rises. Eight people died in avalanches in 2019-20, which is lower than the 10-year running average of 10. This is the lowest this number has been since 1997 and a significant decline from the peak 10-year average of 15 in 2004. Last winter, half of all fatalities were backcountry skiers or snowboarders, three were snowmobilers, and one was a snowshoer. Two deaths were in Alberta, one in Quebec, and the rest were in British Columbia, where most fatalities historically occur. Avalanche fatalities are one of the few solid statistics we have to measure the success of our programs at Avalanche Canada. While it is encouraging to see fatalities trend downwards, we still struggle whenever we receive news of a fatal avalanche. While there is rarely a clear pattern in a season’s fatality stats, one thing that stands out for 2019 - 2020 is that a number of victims and their groups were not well prepared. Two incidents involve people who weren't wearing a transceiver. Two other fatalities occurred after the survivors were unable to execute an effective companion rescue. Avalanche fatality statistics inform our programming. When seven snowshoers died in avalanches in 2017, we began a focused effort to target those users. Last winter, we saw a 40% increase in the number of snowshoers taking an AST course. We will continue to work hard towards our mission of ensuring Canadians are empowered to enjoy our winter backcountry while being safe from avalanches.

Annual Avalanche Fatalities in Canada Showing 10 Year Moving Average 25 20 15 10






















Avalanche Fatalities 2011 – 2020 By Location

British Columbia











Newfoundland & Labrador

Total 105

Avalanche Fatalities 2011 – 2020 By Activity Snowmobiling


Backcountry Skiing


Out-of-Bounds Skiing

Snowshoeing and Hiking

3 13




Guided Skiing


Putting it into Perspective


Total 105

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 downward 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

It was the first year of our expansion plan. Total expenses and revenues were just under $2.7 million. The AvID project, which is separate from AvCan operations and funded by the National Search and Rescue Secretariat, had revenues and expenses of $161,143.

Operating Revenue by Source

Avalanche Canada Training Program 123,025 Projects 108,688 Outreach 249,355 Public Avalanche Warning Service 2,017,470 Youth Programs Total

194,157 $2,692,695

Expenses by Category AST Contributions


Alberta Government


Avalanche Canada Foundation


British Columbia Government


Columbia Basin Trust


Donations 22,993 BC Gaming Grant


Meteorological Services of Canada Parks Canada

75,000 150,000

Other 242,578 Retail Sales


Sponsorships 252,607 Total


*Amortization, freight, interest, recovered costs, in-kind, project.

Wages and Benefits Avalanche Quebec

1,465,839 250,000

Operations 498,525 Other* 478,331 Total


*Amortization, research, bad debt, COGS, in-kind, loss cap asset.

“Backcountry recreation is an important part of Valemount’s community fabric. The incredible snowy mountains in our backyard lure residents and attract tourists to our community throughout winter. Avalanche Canada has helped our community make fantastic strides forward in skier and rider safety. Their simple avalanche forecasts, Mountain Information Network, and outreach to skiers and snowmobilers help create a culture of safety, knowledge, and fun amongst a group of snow-loving risk takers. It's a tough nut to crack, yet it is amazing to see the progress that Avalanche Canada is making. Here in Valemount, we see that avalanche safety culture grow every year. AvCan's moves to hire staff to make observations in the North Rockies and produce regular forecasts for our region is the latest in a string of brilliant moves that help foster this culture of safe recreation. Please, keep it up!” Andru McCracken, Editor, Rocky Mountain Goat, Valemount, BC

"The Yukon Avalanche Association and Avalanche Canada are partners in promoting a culture of avalanche safety and awareness across the North for recreational backcountry users in Yukon and northern British Columbia. Avalanche Canada’s staff on the operations and forecasting teams are all consummate professionals committed to innovation and continuous improvement in their services. Constantly making user-focused improvements to their products and tools, such as the invaluable Mountain Information Network and forecast pages, their emphasis on the user experience and their responsiveness to the needs of their regional partners is what sets them apart in the industry." Chris Sheadon, President, Yukon Avalanche Association

"In November, 2019, the Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC collaborated with Avalanche Canada to deliver two highly successful events in Vancouver. Over 700 people attended the sessions, which were aimed at both backcountry novices and more experienced users. The presentations delivered by AvCan were exceptional, delivering practical and relevant material that I’m certain will continue to contribute in keeping folks safer out there. The need to reach the many users from our region is only getting greater, so we look forward to continuing to partner with Avalanche Canada." Barry Janyk, Executive Director, Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC


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

Avy Savvy Avy Savvy, our new online tutorial, will be launched at the start of the 2020-21 winter season. It is being built on a new platform and will feature hundreds of photos, videos, games, and quizzes to help people enter the avalanche world. It will be a major improvement over our existing tutorial and will help new backcountry users start their avalanche education.

Outreach Program We are working with our partners and ambassadors to host a weekly series of free online webinars. They will be geared at different recreation types, experience levels, and regions. We will have experts in their field and our forecasters present at various sessions throughout the winter.

Youth Program Our youth outreach team is working hard to deliver our programming to students K - 12 this winter. With school districts in Alberta and BC promoting more outdoor learning, we are anticipating an increase in demand for our outdoor training sessions. To meet this demand, we hope to provide each of our youth instructors with a toolbox consisting of transceivers, probes, and shovels, so they can visit schools and teach students about avalanche safety outside. We are working to acquire more toolboxes so we don’t have to move them between different regions.We are also developing new curriculum to allow online delivery of our winter safety and avalanche awareness sessions for schools that prefer this option. And of course we will have complete Covid protocols in place for our staff who visit schools that request our traditional classroom delivery.

Social Media For the 2020-21 season, social media will continue to play a key role in our communication strategy, particularly for beginner backcountry users, and we’re creating content to meet this need. Our social media channels will also be important for distributing the digital resources we’re creating to replace our usual in-person outreach efforts. We’re also preparing to use social media to promote the Mountain Information Network in the event that our usual datastream from professional sources is affected by the pandemic.

Image: Lyle Grisedale 41

Our People

Avalanche Canada Staff 2019-20 Executive Director Gilles Valade

South Rockies Field Team Jennifer Coulter, Leslie Crawley, Lisa Larson

Avalanche Warning Service Manager Karl Klassen

North Rockies Field Team Martina Halik, Ben Hawkins, Dave Merritt

IT Manager Karl Guillotte

Yukon Field Team James Minifie, Drew Nylan, Alastair Wain

Communications Director Mary Clayton

Software Developers Russell McWhae, Bryce Schroers

Comptroller Janis Borden

Digital Content Coordinator Sarah Taylor

Sponsorship and Marketing Jennifer George

Communications Associate Alex Cooper

Education and Outreach Coordinator Nancy Geismar

Youth Education Coordinators Josh Smith (Interim), Shannon Werner

Forecasting Program Supervisors James Floyer Ilya Storm

Snowmobile Outreach Coordinator Brent Strand

Senior Avalanche Forecasters Mark Bender, Grant Helgeson Avalanche Forecasters Mike Conlan, Kate Devine, Lisa Dreier, Colin Garritty, Arienne Hanna, Simon Horton, Cecelia Mortenson, Diana Saly, Josh Smith, Anne St. Clair, Shannon Werner

Financial Assistant Breanna Hartley

Board Engagement The members of the board of directors are very engaged and bring a wide set of complementary skills and expertise as necessary for the governance of Avalanche Canada. The board meets regularly via conference calls five to six times per year and through face-to-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. The board of directors is tasked with responsible stewardship of Avalanche Canada's funding. They review and approve the budget, and ensure our funding is spent responsibly and that no money is wasted. With our federal endowment in place, this oversight role has grown to ensure that funding lasts for the duration of our 15-year business plan and beyond. Board of Directors President Kevin Seel holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in physical geography and a doctorate in environmental modeling from the University of Calgary. He has worked on projects across Canada and the U.S. in a variety of industries and is currently a senior environmental consultant at Golder Associates.

Vice-President Kevin Williams has been involved in avalanche science, rescue and education since the early 1980s. He was involved in avalanche work at Lake Louise, Fernie and Whistler and was instrumental in the early development of the Avalanche Skills Training (AST) program. He holds a B.Eng and M.Sc (Geophysics) from McGill University and was a PhD candidate in avalanche research at UBC.

Treasurer Mike McMynn is a chartered professional accountant who has worked in both an accounting firm focusing on small businesses, including not-for-profit organizations, and in the oil and gas industry. His experience includes tax, financial reporting, organizational structures, governance and team management.

Secretary William Jackson holds a BA Sc in electronic systems engineering from the University of Regina, and an MBA from Simon Fraser University. He manages the business intelligence team at Arc’teryx Equipment where he is responsible for the day to day reporting and analytics functions, and supporting key strategic initiatives for the organization.

Directors Richard Bergen Paul Chatteron John Irvine Terry Palechuk Curtis Pawliuk Jeremy Shier


Avalanche Canada Foundation

A Message from the President Last October, Gord Ritchie stepped down as President of the Avalanche Canada Foundation, ending more than 20 years of leadership within the Canadian avalanche sector. One can never fill the shoes of someone who provided such exceptional guidance and vision to an organization. I am so grateful for the healthy and professional environment through every level of this unique organization that I experienced in my two years on the Avalanche Canada board before transitioning to the ACF board in 2019. This solid groundwork laid over the past 20 years has been tested by the year 2020. In January, director Adam Campbell’s wife, Laura Kosakoski, died in an avalanche, a sobering reminder to our entire community of the fragility of life. Even for those who practice all available means of staying out of harm's way while pursuing our backcountry passion, incidents may still occur that we have little means to control. After a very successful Calgary fundraiser in October 2019, the plans were set to repeat for our Whistler event in March. However, with the rapid onset of Covid-19 on the west coast in early March, the board made the tough decision less than one week before the event to postpone. Hindsight provides a clear lens that it was the right decision, however challenging at the time. Throughout the lockdown and eventual shutdown in March and April, we observed, like so many other organizations, the ambiguity of how to fulfil our mandate with such uncertainty on the horizon. The year 2020 has also presented many opportunities. With the National Strategy funds secured, the ACF has started to formulate strategies for user engagement across Canada. Our fundraising efforts need to be dynamic and easy to access. These two criteria may be met by online platforms that offer novel ways to launch events and communicate with the public. Prior to Covid-19, we had started to pursue third-party fund-raising partnerships. There were unique ideas that included a brewery or distillery branding AvCan on a new product line, an online platform providing user-directed financial support to AvCan, setting up a “Text-to-Give” application, and a backcountry social media group engaging their followers with information on accessing AvCan services. We are excited by these new formats and look forward to discovering other opportunities and partnerships that can share our organization's message with existing users and those new to the backcountry world. Whether your pastime is skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, or early season hiking, we need your support more than ever before. The National Strategy funds are dedicated to specific operational processes. The Avalanche Canada Foundation would like your help in providing funds for existing programs and in ensuring avalanche forecasting is readily available for all users of Canada’s backcountry. Whether it is a $10 contribution or a large corporate gift, we greatly appreciate every dollar. May you and your family stay safe during these most extraordinary times.

Cheryl Goodwin, President

Fundraising Party for Powder, Calgary, November 16, 2019 This pre-season fundraiser at Festival Hall in Calgary attracted 175 people and raised almost $45,000 for the Avalanche Canada Foundation. This party included live music and a DJ, as well as a lively auction and some delicious food.

Art for Avalanche Canada, Whistler This major fundraiser was postponed, then cancelled due to the spread of Covid-19. The event was scheduled for March 14, 2020, at the Squamish-Lil’wat Cultural Centre, but the ACF board made the decision to postpone it once it became clear that hosting large gatherings was inappropriate. We would like to thank all the sponsors who had already committed their support to this great event,

Other fundraisers: We are extremely grateful to the numerous organizations that held fundraisers for the Avalanche Canada Foundation. Combined, they raised almost $20,000 to support public avalanche safety in Canada.

Festival Hall in Calgary was packed for the first annual Party for Powder last November. Guests were treated to great music, delicious food, a live auction, and more. Image: Carolyn Best

• Fernie Brewing, Cheers to Charity for the South Rockies Field Team • Cocktails for a Cause, Park Distillery, Banff, AB, Oct 31, 2019 • Charities Aid Foundation America, Omaze, and CMH • Backcountry YYC Facebook Group fundraiser, Nov. 21, 2019 • Kootenay Collab Powder Hwy sock sales • Freshtival Calgary, Oct. 12, 2019 • Text-to-Donate • Michel Trudeau Memorial Rose sales, Adamson’s Nursery, Langley, BC • Canmore Brewing Green Brick Ale


COVID Effect Cancelling the annual Art for Avalanche Canada fundraiser in the spring was a precursor, as the Avalanche Canada Foundation remains unable to hold its in-person fundraisers in Calgary and Whistler this fall. The board of directors is moving fundraising efforts away from onenight events to online auctions and other initiatives that are held over a longer period of time, and designed to solicit a greater number of smaller donations.

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

Office Administration Pattie Roozendaal

Image: Troy Grant

Financial Summary

Grants and Awards 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

The financial position of the foundation remains strong. A decline in total revenues this year reflected the deferral of the 2020 Whistler fundraiser to November due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, corporate and individual donations were higher than last year. In 2020, the foundation received a $25M endowment from the federal government, to be held in trust for Avalanche Canada for the next 10 years. The board of directors has duly constituted an investment committee to manage this endowment. As per a directive from the federal minister of finance, the committee includes a minimum of three members of the foundation’s board of directors, who are not officers or employees of the Avalanche Canada Foundation. The foundation elected to add two other members, independent from both the Avalanche Canada Foundation and Avalanche Canada, who have broad knowledge and experience in investment matters. The funds are managed by an external investment firm, following strict guidelines, and are invested at a separate institution.

Revenues 2019-20

ISSW Fund • Two awards totalling $3,693

Fundraising* 68,754 Deferred Contributions Recognized** 9,524

Cora Shea Fund • One award of $750

Individual Donations


Craig Kelly Memorial Fund • Two awards totalling $1,000

Benefit Income


Al Hodgson Memorial Fund • One award of $2,000

Interest and Other Income 18,393

Corporate Donations




*Fundraising revenue less fundraising expenditures (Calgary Fundraiser). **Contributions for University Research and Scholarships.

Expenditures 2019-20

Grants to Simon Fraser Univ.


Other Grants and Scholarships 7,443 Fundraising 23,943 Office & Overhead*** Total

54,856 $126,242

***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. 47

Avalanche Canada Foundation

Supporters Organizations and individuals who have made three-year funding commitments 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 Party for Powder

Pantone - 389CP RGB - 207 214 65 HEX/HTML - CFD641 CMYK - 21 0 85 0

Pantone - 445C RGB - 80 87 89 HEX/HTML - 505759 CMYK - 52 23 30 74

Pantone - 446C RGB - 63 68 68 HEX/HTML - 3F4444 CMYK - 54 27 36 82

Art for Avalanche Canada

PO Box 8800 Canmore, AB T1W 0C1 T 403.678.1235


Image: Leslie Crawley

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