2020-21 Annual Report
04 Message from the President 05 Message from the Executive Director 06 Communications Amplifying Our Voice Social Media Avalanche Ambassadors
14 Our Community Avalanche Québec BC Gaming Capital Grant Corporate Support Gordon Ritchie Service Award
21 Public Avalanche Warning Service Addressing Data Shortages Field Teams Newfoundland & Labrador AvID Development Mountain Information Network ATES Mountain Weather Forecast Research
28 Education and Outreach Avalanche Canada Training Online Learning AST 2 Curriculum Youth Outreach Program Ice Climbing Initiatives Snowmobile Outreach
37 IT Report 38 Avalanche Fatalities 40 Financial Summary 42 Funding Partners 45 Looking Ahead 46 Our People 48 Avalanche Canada Foundation Message from the President Fundraising Grants and Awards Financial Summary Supporters and Sponsors
Cover Image: A North Rockies Field Team member observes a large avalanche in the Renshaw riding area. Image: North Rockies Field Team
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. Youth take part in a subsidized AST 1 course at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Image: Brittney Dickson
• We anticipate and respond to challenges and changes with creativity, collaboration, courage and bold enthusiasm.
A Message from the President I'm very pleased to report that on May 17, 2021, BC Public Safety Minister, Mike Farnworth, announced a $10 million, 10-year grant for Avalanche Canada. The announcement came after many years of effort by Avalanche Canada and its supporters. Together, we worked to convince the BC government of the importance of financial stability to avalanche forecasting, education, training, and outreach; and to appreciate the effect these critical public programs have on avalanche accidents and fatalities in the province. This grant is managed by the Avalanche Canada Foundation and is overseen by an investment committee staffed by directors and external investment professionals. The committee ensures the money is managed independently and prudently, with an investment strategy that is extremely low risk, which also means low returns. This cautious fiscal strategy means that every year we must draw down against the principal of our endowment, which reduces the available funds. We certainly intend to stretch this money out for as long as we possibly can but currently we’re in an expansion period, creating new programs and improving existing ones for under-served areas of BC, the Yukon, and Newfoundland and Labrador. We have approached this expansion carefully; sustainability is our priority. We never want to establish a program only to curtail services later because of funding cuts. Backcountry users in Canada need and deserve long-term, stable avalanche safety programs. We are grateful for this grant from BC, but it’s important to recognize that most of it replaces existing provincial funding. Although we have achieved some financial stability for our programs over the next several years, our endowment will continue to shrink unless we can find creative ways to replace it. This means we will need to continue to seek additional revenues, including fundraising at local events, online auctions, and any other methods to support our programs. Achieving financial stability has long been the core goal of this board. With Covid and other uncertainties likely in the years ahead, we will continue to serve the public as best we can, with whatever means we can muster. I hope you all will continue to support us in achieving this goal and we sincerely and humbly thank you for your ongoing support. We wish you a healthy and safe winter.
Kevin Seel, President
James Floyer, forecast program supervisor, eyes the terrain on Vancouver Island during a trip in 2019. We will have a full-time field team on Vancouver Island this winter and we will be providing regular forecasts for this region. Image: Mike Conlan
A Message from the Executive Director This has been a year to remember for Avalanche Canada. While it may be one many want to forget personally, as an organization we have a lot to be proud of for our ability to step up and meet the challenges presented by Covid-19. The pandemic forced us to rethink and re-tool in a very short period of time. Projects and ideas we thought we would deploy in the coming years were completed in a matter of months. The pandemic resulted in increased operating costs and had major impacts on our outreach, education, and forecasting programs. We were concerned about the Covid-driven influx of new backcountry recreationists and focused on reaching as many types of users as possible. We launched Avy Savvy, an interactive online tutorial, in English and French. We made the difficult decision to cancel our in-person outreach, but replaced it with a hugely successful free weekly webinar series that was accessible to everyone, no matter where they live. Our youth education also moved to an online platform. Given the response, many of these initiatives will be back this year. Avalanche Canada Training was deemed essential by public health officials and we received special permission to run courses this year. Thanks to a tremendous effort by course providers, we had a record year with over 15,000 students and no major incidents or outbreaks. Our forecasting program was affected by Covid. A significant component of our forecasters’ daily data comes from the professional avalanche community via InfoEx. It goes without saying that there was a major reduction of available information flowing to our forecasting team because so many commercial guiding operations either shut down or operated in a reduced capacity. We compensated by increasing our field presence and making more use of our snowpack modelling program. We’re also grateful for the hundreds of backcountry users who submitted valuable field observations through our Mountain Information Network. In May, the BC Government announced new funding of $10 million for Avalanche Canada. This one-time grant, which needs to last 10 years, will provide certainty as it replaces the annual funding we had been receiving. It also enables us to expand by adding field teams on Vancouver Island and in northwest BC. Although we made it through mostly unscathed and are quite happy with our achievements, we cannot forget that it was a terrible year for many. So many lives were lost or affected by Covid, and financial hardship existed for many. This summer saw a record-breaking heat wave in BC, followed by devastating wildfires. Our thoughts go out to those affected and we sincerely hope that next year will be better. We are eternally thankful for all front-line health workers, firefighters, search and rescue volunteers, and all others who are keeping us safe. As usual none of what happens at AvCan would be possible without our dedicated staff. This year, more than ever, they rose to the occasion and delivered. A sincere thank you to all of them. Let’s hope for a safe and snowy winter.
Gilles Valade, Executive Director 5
Amplifying Our Voice The main focus of our communication efforts this year was reaching inexperienced recreationists who were spurred into the backcountry by the pandemic. A key element of our multi-pronged approach was leveraging our partnerships with other stakeholders so we could amplify our collective voices to reach this population of backcountry beginners. We have worked hard to develop these relationships since our founding in 2004 and they took on increasing importance this winter. We launched a free webinar series that saw us collaborate with Parks Canada, AdventureSmart, North Shore Rescue, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, pro athletes, and others. We partnered with gear manufacturers, retailers, snowmobile clubs, visitor centres, ski resorts, and more, to distribute QR-coded stickers directing people to our Start Here page, which features basic avalanche safety information. We worked with Destination BC, which leads the province’s tourism marketing efforts, and other tourism agencies to spread avalanche safety information. And we issued a media release on backcountry safety with WorkSafeBC and the BC Search & Rescue Association. While it is difficult to quantify the impact of this work, we are heartened by the record number of people who signed up for Avalanche Canada Training courses and the amazing reception to our webinar series. We feel this demonstrates the effectiveness of our efforts to reach new backcountry users, as well as experienced recreationists. We issued five Special Public Avalanche Warnings this year. Three involved collaborating with other agencies, including Parks Canada and Kananaskis Country. We act as the lead agency in these coordinated warnings, which allow our combined agencies to communicate clearly, with one voice, to backcountry users in western Canada. We are proud of the timeliness and coherency of the messaging for our SPAWS. They resulted in 1,452 media reports and were seen 722,649 times on our social media channels.
Grant Helgeson, Senior Forecaster, appears on CTV News to talk about the avalanche conditions following the issuance of a Special Public Avalanche Warning for the South Coast region on Jan. 28, 2021. We were fortunate to have a field team working in the North Shore mountains above Vancouver when we issued the warning. The team was able to provide updates to the public and our forecasters during a period of heightened avalanche danger. Helgeson was interviewed from the top of Mount Seymour right after returning from the field, and the team was able to provide CTV and other news media with videos taken in the backcountry earlier that day. Image: CTV News
Media Coverage Traditional media remains a key part of our communication strategy, where we deliver condition reports, discuss avalanche safety, and promote our outreach events and training programs. Our forecasters and field staff are all trained to share their expertise with the media when requested and we give roughly 200 interviews every winter. In 2020-21, we were featured in almost 5,500 print, online, and broadcast stories; and garnered earned media valued at over $16 million. With the launch of our Newfoundland & Labrador field team, our media presence stretches from coast to coast.
# of reports
November 2 November 9 November 16 November 23 November 30
Dec. 23: SPAW issued for the Columbia Mountains and much of the Rocky Mountains.
December 7 December 14 December 21 December 28 Jan. 28: SPAW issued for the South Coast. Feb. 1: SPAW extended for South Coast and expanded to Vancouver Island.
January 4 January 11 January 18 January 25 February 1 February 8
Feb. 12-13: Two fatal avalanches near Whistler.
February 15 February 22 March 1
Feb 25: SPAW issued for South Rockies, North Rockies, and Cariboos.
March 8 March 15 March 22
Mar. 3: SPAW issued for Rocky Mountains and Cariboos.
March 29 April 5 April 12 April 19
Apr. 3: News release issued with Emergency Management BC and BC Search & Rescue Association.
April 26 May 3 May 10
May 17: BC funding announcement.
May 17 May 24 May 31 7
Social Media We saw growth across all our social channels and accounts this season. As in previous years, we worked to shape our social content to suit the needs of our users by including more video and educational content in our channels. One of the successes of this season’s social media content was sharing videos created for Avy Savvy. These videos explain avalanche problems and other terms used in avalanche forecasts, and were designed to be shared on social media. They were widely shared outside of our channels and the feedback we received was very positive. We also produced video content to support important initiatives such as the launch of Avy Savvy, thanking our sponsor Teck for their continued support, and encouraging MIN use. Our most popular video this winter was our ice climbing outreach piece, which received over 24,000 views. We produced a series of mini interviews with our youth ambassadors for our youth Instagram account, @behind_ thelines. These video interviews offered a look at how our youth ambassadors got into the backcountry and their advice for other young people thinking of travelling in avalanche terrain. This season we added a new social media account for our field team in Newfoundland. Find them on Facebook (@avcanNL) and Instagram (@avcan_nl).
Sarah Hueniken, our new ice climbig ambassador, worked with us on a video about avalanche safety for ice climbers that was our most popular video this winter. Image: Contributed by Sarah Hueniken
25,316 % increase 8.1 South Rockies 4,056 % increase 13.9 North Rockies 709 % increase 34.5 Yukon 732 % increase 183.7 Newfoundland & Labrador 433
35,323 % increase 54.7 South Rockies 4,176 % increase 31.9 North Rockies 1,432 % increase 35.6 Yukon 754 % increase 78.3 Newfoundland & Labrador 549 Behind the Lines 758 % increase 16.3
Avalanche.ca Website: • Page views: 2,832,675 • Unique page views: 2,276,883 • Sessions: 1,428,363 È 34% increase
• Average time on page: 1:57 App: • Page views: 7,729,283 • Unique page views: 4,386,258 • Sessions: 1,070,084 • Average time on page: 2:49
Social Media Initiatives Our focus for social media initiatives this year was to engage the anticipated influx of new backcountry users. Interactive Instagram This season we continued with our Q&A sessions on Instagram, which proved as popular as ever. Additionally, we created Instagram quizzes that tied into themes found in the avalanche forecasts. From the feedback, we know these were especially welcomed by new users to the backcountry. We also asked people to share their top tips for people just starting out in the backcountry and got some fantastic responses.
Destination BC We worked with Destination BC, the organization that leads tourism marketing efforts for the province, to collaborate on sharing our information about conditions and preparedness in the backcountry. The boom in backcountry use, particularly amongst hikers and snowshoers, was a concern for both our organizations. Using their social media channels to share our messaging was beneficial in helping us reach an audience we wouldn’t normally have accessed.
Ski Areas Collaborations We worked with resorts across Western Canada to promote our video and webinar on out-of-bounds skiing to prepare for a season where we thought more people might be accessing the backcountry through resorts. Several resorts shared this content and promoted our event, with a number requesting further materials to share, such as our Fresh to the Backcountry QR code stickers.
The Aspect Newsletter Avalanche Canada issues The Aspect monthly during the winter season. This e-newsletter provides ongoing updates about our programs, products, and services, as well as insight into new projects, our challenges, and our successes. This year saw us greatly expand The Aspect’s reach and frequency. We published eight issues from September to April, up from six in 2019-20, and only four in 2018-19. More importantly, we took advantage of registration for our webinar series and the Avalanche Canada Foundation’s online fundraisers to encourage people to sign up for The Aspect. The result is we nearly quadrupled subscribers to almost 7,700! This helped us get our important news and messages out to even more people. Just as impressive, our open rate ranged from 42–58 percent, which is roughly double the average of other non-profits, according to Mailchimp. This demonstrates how much our users value our work.
Social Schedule MIN To Win Contest Our weekly MIN to Win contest continued to go from strength to strength this season, with prizing supplied by FATMAP for the contest on our main social media channels. Regional winners continued to receive Avalanche Canada branded prizes.
Martina Halik, North Rockies field team leader, skis in the Torpy Region. Image: Ben Hawkins
Google Ads We used our Google Ad Grant to run free Google search ads that drove traffic to our website this season. In addition to the ads we ran last season directing users to our forecasts and Start Here page, we added a new ad directing people to Avy Savvy. These ads are funded by a non-profit grant from Google and are displayed to people searching for related terms, such as ‘snowshoeing’ or ‘mountain safety’.
2020 Avalanche Ambassador Team The Avalanche Canada Ambassador program works with elite athletes to promote avalanche safety in their area of winter recreation. For 2021, our team was boosted by Sarah Hueniken, our new ice climbing ambassador. Sarah Hueniken Sarah has pushed women's ice and mixed climbing in North America for many years and has been alpine/ice guiding in the Canadian Rockies for 16 years as an ACMG Alpine Guide. Running her own company, she specializes in women-specific camps that focus on building independence and skills toward self-reliance and leading in the mountains. With the loss of her dearest friend to an avalanche while ice climbing, Sarah understands the risks of the mountains with the greatest respect. She is sponsored by Arc'teryx, Scarpa, Sterling ropes, and Onward Up. Chris Rubens Chris Rubens has been a globally recognized professional skier for well 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 his winters collaborating with the Blank Collective, Salomon TV, and Matchstick Productions. He is passionate about sharing his experience and knowledge to help educate people about backcountry skiing. Between ski trips, Chris resides in the town of Revelstoke, BC, and now spends his off-season working hard, growing organic vegetables as First Light Farm. Nadine Overwater 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 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. Jonathan Walsh Norris Point, NL @jonathann_walsh
Mason Kenyon Stony Plain, AB @mason.kenyon
Amy Ertel Whistler, BC @amyertell
Nathan Shears Rocky Harbour, NL @nathan_shears_
Aleks Klassen Revelstoke, BC @aleksklassen
Aleks Klassen gets the goods on Glacier Crest, Rogers Pass, in the beautiful Selkirks Image: Graham McKerrell
Avalanche Québec Avalanche Québec and Avalanche Canada have a long-standing relationship and have collaborated on many initiatives over the years. The new federal funding, granted In 2019, has strengthened these ties. 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. Founded in 2000 and based in the Chic-Choc Mountains of the Gaspé Peninsula, it is the only centre of expertise in avalanche safety east of the Rockies. Thanks to the federal funding, Avalanche Quebec now provides daily avalanche forecasts for the Chic-Chocs. This allows the program to comply with the best practices and international standards, align with Avalanche Canada services level, and provide the best possible programs for Gaspé backcountry users. Avalanche Québec has administered 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. This season, 730 students took an avalanche course in Québec, a decrease compared to the previous winter due to Covid-19. However, this number is up 300% 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 goal to become a truly national public avalanche safety organization.
Translation Projects As Canada’s national public avalanche safety organization, Avalanche Canada is continually working towards providing all our products and services in both official languages. We are offering more bilingual services and have been busy translating many of our products into French. This work raises our profile and makes avalanche awareness more accessible nationwide. We thank our colleagues at Avalanche Quebec for their invaluable help in this area. This winter, we published a large part of our daily forecasts in French for the first time. The danger ratings, avalanche problems, and terrain and travel advice were all translated. We are currently working on ways to automatically translate the free text portions of the forecast, such as the avalanche and snowpack summaries, which would make the entire forecast completely bilingual. This translation work stretches to our education products. In the fall, we published the French translation of the sled edition of our Avalanche Skills Training Handbook (the ski version was translated in 2019). Avy Savvy, our new online tutorial, was translated and is known as Ava Avisé in French. Lastly, many of our communications are translated, including our Special Public Avalanche Warnings, media releases, The Aspect, and this annual report.
Avalanche Quebec technicians at Vallières de St-Réal in the Chic Choc Mountains. Image: Laurie Dumas
BC Community Gaming Grant We are very grateful for BC Community Gaming Grants, which have helped fund our BC operations for the past decade. The 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 applied for and received $250,000 annually through this program. This grant supports our public avalanche warning services and public outreach programs. 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 funding for grants like this one. But 2020 was the last time we will be applying for a community gaming grant, thanks to the $10 million funding that the Government of BC announced in May 2021.
Grants Our headquarters in Revelstoke has been renovated to help us accommodate our growing staff. Image: Alex Cooper
BC Gaming Capital Project Grant This year, we applied for a BC Gaming Capital Project Grant to make renovations to our office building in Revelstoke. These grants are for the purchase of capital assets for long-term use and require recipients to contribute funding as well. We received $185,000 to help fund upgrades to our office building in Revelstoke. These renovations were required to meet Covid safety protocols mandated by WorkSafe BC and BC health authorities, and involved: • constructing a new canopy for our front entrance to allow for safe, contact-free shipping and receiving; • expansion of our basement office space to allow for greater employee distancing in-office; and • construction of an internal stairwell connecting upstairs and downstairs. These renovations will be finished for the 2021-22 winter season. They will allow us to accommodate our growing staff and meet public health guidelines. We are very grateful for BC Gaming funding two-thirds of this $275,000 project.
Columbia Basin Trust Community Initiatives 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. This season, we received $7,900 from this program to support two outreach events: Staying Alive and the Canuck Splitfest. Both of these events help visitors and residents prepare for winter backcountry adventures, which help to reduce the need for search and rescue call outs for avalanche incidents. They benefit local businesses economically as they effectively promote Revelstoke’s tourism profile. This year, these events were held online, which helped bring them to a broader audience. Six 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 the communities within the Columbia Basin.
Corporate Support MEC Doubles Funding We are proud to be selected to be part of MEC’s $1-million Outdoor Impact Program and grateful to be one of the national organizations they have chosen to support. MEC has been a long-time partner and the main sponsor of our Avalanche Canada Training program. Along with supporting our existing programming, MEC has created the Avalanche Safety Grant to bring AST courses to Black, Indigenous and people of colour-led (BIPOC) organizations through the creation of the MEC Avalanche Safety Grant. Investing these resources in BIPOC-led organizations ensures our world-class public avalanche safety programs support Canada’s outdoor communities. The funding will also see us create more video resources for our users, and supports our online webinar series. We are excited to continue developing this partnership in the coming years.
Celebrating 10 Years of Teck Teck Resources has been one of Avalanche Canada’s most important supporters for more than a decade. This year, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of a partnership that has helped transform public avalanche safety in Canada. Over this period, Teck has contributed $840,000 to Avalanche Canada, allowing us to develop and deliver effective programs for the South Rockies region of BC and Alberta. Teck’s funding allowed for the creation of the South Rockies field team, which gathers snowpack, avalanche, and weather information that is used for regional forecasts. It has played a vital role in fostering a culture of avalanche safety in the area through its outreach efforts in-person and online. The South Rockies field team is the model for the five other field teams we will have in place across the country this coming winter. We are extremely grateful for Teck’s commitment to avalanche safety and the care they have shown for their employees and community. We look forward to continuing this partnership into the future.
“Backcountry avalanche safety in our community has grown by leaps and bounds thanks to the partnership between Teck and Avalanche Canada. The South Rockies field team has earned a great deal of respect from snowmobilers thanks to their friendly and entertaining approach to outreach. We are so grateful to Teck for their proven commitment to the safety of this community.” ~ Nicole Matei, Executive Director, Fernie Snowmobile Association. Image: Jennifer Coulter
Grassroots Support 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. Virtual Canuck Splitfest The annual Canuck Splitfest took place online in its 11th year. Instead of welcoming people to Revelstoke for a weekend of riding and our Saturday night fundraiser, we hosted an online auction and three nights of webinars from Jan. 8–10, while encouraging people to ride with their bubbles, close to home. The new format was a huge success, with $24,000 raised through the auction and prize draws, and another $4,000 through ticket sales to the webinars. Splitfest has raised more than $100,000 for our programs since 2011. The first webinar focused on trip planning, Saturday’s event featured three panel discussions, and on Sunday, keynote speaker Matt Gunn spoke about his guidebook, Spearhead Backcountry Atlas. Many thanks to our title sponsor, Eagle Pass Heliskiing, who provided the grand prize of a heli-assisted and guided backcountry day for four. We are so grateful to all the sponsors who helped us make this Splitfest the most successful ever. Silver Sponsors Title Sponsor Burton, Cheetah Factory Racing, Dakine, FATMAP, G3, K2, Eagle Pass Heliboard Karakoram, Nibz, The North Face, Phantom, RAB, Spark Gold Sponsors: R&D, Stoke Roasted Coffee Co., Tradesman Manufacturing Alpine Club of Canada, Arc’Teryx, BCA, Columbia Basin Bronze Sponsors Trust, Intuition, Lib Teach, Mammut, Nitro Snowboards, Burton, Cheetah Factory Racing, Dakine, FATMAP, G3, K2, Outdoor Research, Sandman Hotel, Scott, Tourism Karakoram, Nibz, The North Face, Phantom, RAB, Spark Revelstoke, Trapper Snowboards, Weston Backcountry R&D, Stoke Roasted Coffee Co., Tradesman Manufacturing
Fund-Raising Clothing Ole Originals, a Vancouver-based clothing company, approached us this year about designing shirts and hoodies for us, with the sales going to support our public avalanche safety programs. Ole Originals designs and prints retro-style and geographic-inspired graphics on high-quality garments. Designs are inspired by the outdoors, travel, wildlife, and the places we love across Canada. Ole graphic artists created an Avalanche Canada design for their t-shirts and hoodies, which they are selling online. Ole is donating 25% of sales of these products directly to our public avalanche safety programs. They have previously supported North Shore Rescue and we were very happy they chose us for their second fundraiser.
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 was presented to Dr. Bruce Jamieson in recognition of his decades of contribution to public avalanche safety as a researcher, educator, and consultant. Bruce has made numerous invaluable contributions to the avalanche industry over his 40-year career. He began as a ski patroller in Fernie, BC, but soon shifted his focus to research. He earned a PhD in avalanche mechanics in 1995 from the University of Calgary, where he became a professor of civil engineering. Bruce held the NSERC Research Chair in Snow Avalanche Risk Control, and led the Applied Snow and Avalanche Research Group from 2004–2014. The research conducted by Bruce and his team led to many advances in avalanche safety. Bruce’s contributions to public avalanche safety are numerous and range from research to hazard assessment to education. At Avalanche Canada, we are most grateful for his generosity in sharing his considerable knowledge and expertise through teaching and writing. He has taught recreational and professional courses, and his book, Backcountry Avalanche Awareness, was the textbook for our AST 1 program for many years. While he is now retired from the university, Bruce continues to keep busy as a consultant. Through his long career, his influence on public avalanche safety has yet to be fully measured.
VSSW 2020 Avalanche Canada staff were instrumental in presenting the first ever Virtual Snow Science Workshop from Oct. 4–6, 2020. Held to fill the void left by the postponement of the International Snow Science Workshop in Fernie, this online event featured 14 presentations, two panel discussions, and numerous poster presentations. About 1,000 people from around the world registered to attend. TThe following AvCan staff worked on VSSW: • James Floyer, forecast program supervisor, served as the program committee chair. • Brent Strand, graphic designer, produced the webinar. • Simon Horton, forecaster, organized the online poster presentations. • Jen Coulter, senior field team leader, was on the organizing committee and hosted one of the presentation sessions. • Mary Clayton, communications director, handled communications for the event. Unfortunately, the in-person conference planned for October 2021 was cancelled due to uncertainty about international travel caused by the pandemic.
Public Avalanche Warning Service
Addressing Data Shortages This winter, Avalanche Canada faced a shortage of information for our forecasts due to an overall reduction in professional submissions to the InfoEx. This anticipated reduction was caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced a number of operators that we usually receive data from to either shut down completely or curtail their operations. Forecaster Lisa Dreier studies the snowpack during a field trip to the Purcells. Our forecasters spent a lot more time in the field this winter to make up for data shortages on InfoEx. Image: Diana Saly
We designed a multi-faceted response to address this data shortage and maintain high quality public avalanche forecasts. We increased the number of field trips taken by our Revelstokebased forecasters, who travelled around the province,collecting data in the South Coast regions, Columbias, Purcells, Cariboos and Northwest Inland. We also expanded the range of our regional field teams, which travelled further than ever before, investigating conditions in a number of neighboring regions. We encouraged submissions to the Mountain Information Network. The response was fantastic, with MIN submissions more than doubling from the previous winter. These submissions greatly assisted our forecasters. Finally, we increased our use of snowpack modelling. Our snowpack modelling program has evolved to the point where we can usefully augment human-collected data with computergenerated data. This helps us track snowfall amounts and weak layers, and understand how features of the snowpack such as crusts and surface hoar evolve over time.
This avalanche in the Hurley area near Pemberton, BC, was captured during a field trip to the South Coast Inland region where the goal was to look for large and difficult-to-predict avalanches. Image: Mike Conlan
Overall, we were pleased with how the winter turned out and we felt we were able to deliver consistent, high-quality forecasts to the public. We are extremely thankful to all the avalanche professionals who submitted information to the InfoEx and the MIN, as well as those who engaged with us directly by email or on the phone. We’re extremely proud of our field programs. Through the work of our field techs we’ve been able to expand and improve our services in data-sparse areas. However, a core part of the information we rely on still comes from the InfoEx. We very much hope this upcoming winter will see a return to a more normal operating climate and a chance to share a safe, successful, and fun winter season.
Public Avalanche Warning Service
Field Teams Avalanche Canada’s field teams play a vital role in collecting snow and weather information for our forecasts in data sparse regions, and connecting with local users. This year, our full-time teams in the South Rockies, North Rockies, and Yukon returned, and we launched our first ever field team in Newfoundland & Labrador. South Rockies The South Rockies field team is our longest running one and is the model for which all other teams are based. Established in 2011, it has built up a loyal following on social media and helped develop a culture of backcountry safety in its region. The team increased its presence and following on Facebook and Instagram, and actively posted to the Mountain Information Network. A webinar focusing on their region was well attended. The team expanded its trip capacity to work in the southern Purcells west of Cranbrook. This has traditionally been a low-data zone and team members were able to gather data, promote avalanche safety, and make connections with communities in that region. North Rockies This was the second year for our North Rockies field team. The team works across a large and varied region that stretches from Valemount in the south to Chetwynd in the north. It covered a lot of ground, with record kilometres driven in the truck and on snowmobiles. Several big snow events throughout the season created tricky conditions and the team worked hard to provide timely updates on conditions for forecasters and the public. The team grew its following by about 35% on social media and regularly contributed to the MIN. Yukon The Yukon field team covers several popular backcountry areas in the southern Yukon and far northern BC. Thanks to its work, Yukon recreationists received an avalanche forecast four times a week through the winter. The region had a record snow season, which offered several challenges and presented new opportunities. The highway leading to White Pass was closed for extended periods due to record snowfall and avalanche conditions. As a result, the team expanded its field trip activities to include the Wheaton Valley, areas around Atlin, and Haines Junction. This has given team members a better understanding of backcountry recreationists in those areas, and increased the team's presence in the region. The extraordinary winter led to a prolonged forecasting season for this region. Forecasts were issued into early May, two weeks after other regions had shut down. The team was very successful at growing its online presence, nearly tripling its Facebook following and increasing its Instagram following by almost 80%. The Yukon Government provides funding for this program, in collaboration with the Yukon Avalanche Association.
Photos on opposite page. Top: North Rockies field team, from left: Martina Halik, and Ben Hawkins. Missing is Dave Merritt. Image: James Floyer | Second from top: Yukon field team, from left: James Minifie, Alastair Wain, and Drew Nylen. Image: Ilya Storm | Third from top: South Rockies field team, from left: Leslie Crawley, Lisa Larson and Jennifer Coulter. Image: Leslie Crawley | Bottom: Newfoundland & Labrador field team: Andy Nichols and Peter Thurlow. Image: Newfoundland & Labrador field team
Newfoundland & Labrador The process to develop a public avalanche safety program in Newfoundland & Labrador accelerated this year when we established our first local field team, based out of Rocky Harbour. Thanks to the Government of Canada endowment, we were able to double our program funding in the province and hire a coordinator/lead avalanche technician and an assistant technician. AvCan has been involved in Newfoundland & Labrador since our inception, supporting a youth program for many years. In 2019 we published ATES maps for popular backcountry areas in the Long Range Mountains. Our objectives this year were to assess public avalanche safety needs and build relationships with partners and stakeholders. Our field team worked to develop and implement a field data observation program and delivered outreach through its social media feeds, where they provided important information on local conditions. This work sets the stage for building a sustainable program that meets the longterm needs of the region with guidance from locals. We are very excited about this expansion and look forward to seeing public avalanche safety programs in Newfoundland & Labrador evolve in the coming years.
Public Avalanche Warning Service
AvID Development AvID is our long-running project to develop new forecasting software. The project began in 2017 with funding from a three-year grant from the National Search and Rescue Secretariat’s New Initiatives Fund. It is now a selffunded project, with expanded goals aimed at improving the tools that our forecasters use to aggregate and analyze the massive amount of data they receive daily from across our regions. In the fall of 2020, we launched a snowpack modelling application that provides computer models of the snowpack in our more remote regions—a vital feature for dealing with Canada’s vast geography. Over the winter, we launched a weather station visualization that allows forecasters to easily aggregate data from some 235 remote weather stations across western Canada. Our team has also developed a beta version of a tool to visualize data coming in from the Mountain Information Network, and a prototype of a tool to visualize avalanche observations coming in from avalanche professionals and recreationists. The next phase of AvID will involve new features to enhance the forecasting application, a number of new data aggregation visualizations, and ongoing research to support the design and development process. This exciting and innovative work has attracted national and international attention. We are currently working with partners in Colorado to support future phases of AvID development, and Parks Canada is also collaborating in the design and development process. Our research partners include Simon Fraser University’s Avalanche Research Program and the School of Interactive Arts and Technology at SFU.
Since 2004, when Avalanche Canada was established, our forecasters have relied on the professional avalanche information exchange known as InfoEx as our primary source of data. This winter, we received less data from InfoEx than usual as many commercial operations were either closed or operating in a limited capacity due to the pandemic. We are very grateful to those who continued contributing information this winter. 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. We look forward to this service returning to normal soon.
Forecast by Text We are always looking for ways to deliver avalanche safety information to as many users as possible. This year, we introduced forecasts by text message, an abbreviated version of the forecast available through satellite messenger devices such as an InReach or SPOT. This service allows backcountry recreationists who spend extended periods offline and away from cell service to access an abbreviated version of their daily regional forecast. Forecasts by text come in two short messages: the first contains the danger ratings and the second contains the forecaster's key messages for the current conditions. The full forecast accessed through the Avalanche Canada app or website is always the best choice if it’s available, but for users spending multiple days in remote locations away from cell service, we are pleased to provide this great option.
Image: Alex Cooper
Mountain Information Network We are very grateful to our users for stepping up their use of the Mountain Information Network (MIN). With less data expected from professional operations, we asked backcountry recreationists to fill the void by contributing to the MIN as much as possible. They heeded our request in overwhelming numbers, filing 5,500 MIN reports—more than double our previous record for a season. Our users and our forecasters consumed them in vast numbers—they were read over 1.25 million times! The MIN is an essential tool for backcountry recreationists and professionals alike. The information sharing platform allows for 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. This year, the reports we received were more important than ever. We made several major upgrades to the MIN this year. Most notably, we added the ability for ice climbers to share ice conditions, a feature in high demand by that community. We also made it possible for contributors to add captions to photos and re-order them as desired. 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
Public Avalanche Warning Service
New ATES Maps Avalanche terrain ratings were added for several regions in British Columbia, the Yukon, and Quebec this season. Ratings for the popular Spearhead Traverse that connects Whistler to Blackcomb were created thanks to support from the American Friends of Whistler. In the Yukon and far northern BC, ratings were published for White Pass, Tutshi, Haines Pass, Wheaton Valley, and Montana Mountain. This work was funded by the Yukon Avalanche Association. In southern BC, ratings were published for the Grassy Mountain/Poland Lake area of E.C. Manning Provincial Park thanks to support from the Friends of Manning Park. In Quebec, ratings were produced for the Chic Choc Mountains. All areas are rated using the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale, which classifies terrain into simple, challenging, or complex depending on its potential to produce avalanches. The maps are posted at trailheads and on our Online Trip Planner, which combines ratings with the current avalanche danger rating, to provide decision-making guidance for planning backcountry trips.
Mountain Weather Forecast The Mountain Weather Forecast has been produced daily by the Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC) since January 2015. It has grown into one of the most popular resources on our website, with more than 125,000 visits this winter. We are especially grateful to our friends at MSC for continuing to produce the Mountain Weather Forecast daily this winter, despite the challenges of working remotely due to the pandemic. They asked us to place a warning on our website indicating the forecast could be affected, but fortunately that was not the case. We also added nine remote weather stations to our homepage, bringing the total available to our users to 122. These stations provide recreationists with up-to-date temperature, wind, and precipitation readings and assist with trip planning and more
Research Supporting avalanche research is essential to our goal of reducing avalanche accidents. We have been funding Dr. Pascal Haegeli’s position as Research Chair in Avalanche Risk Management at Simon Fraser University’s Avalanche Research Program (SARP) since 2015. We work closely with Pascal and his students on projects that have potential for improvements to avalanche safety. Dr. James Floyer, our forecast program supervisor, is an Adjunct Professor with the program. This partnership provides great benefits to our programs, and helps us deliver better products to our users. Current research projects: Automated ATES Modeling Avalanche Canada has been rating terrain using the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale for over a decade; however, the current process is very labour intensive and only a portion of backcountry recreation areas have been rated. A PhD student is working on ways to automate this process so we can apply ratings across all of our forecast regions. This will greatly enhance our Online Trip Planner, which combines the daily danger rating with a local ATES rating to give users real-time and relevant riskmanagement guidance.
Automated Snowpack Models Our forecasters are using automated snowpack models as part of their daily workflow. These models use weather forecasts to create a simulated snowpack for locations around the province, and provide our forecasters advanced tools to create forecasts in our large, data-sparse regions. We are supporting research led by one of our forecasters, Dr. Simon Horton, a postdoctoral fellow with SARP, into improving these models and developing ways to aggregate snow and weather data into regional snowpack summaries.
Snowpack models provide information about potential avalanche conditions in remote areas. We are developing methods to assess their accuracy based on nearby weather stations. The image on the left shows treeline snow heights estimated from field observations, the image in the middle shows treeline snow heights from snowpack model simulations, and the right image shows the relative difference between the two snow heights. Image: Simon Horton
Data Visualizations As part of our AvID project, we have supported PhD research at SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology into creating visualizations for the vast amounts of snowpack, weather, and avalanche data our forecasters consume every day to create our forecasts. These visualizations are already being used in our daily forecasting process.
Understanding Backcountry Users There are a number of Master’s theses projects in this group. One project is focusing on how recreationists use and apply the North American Public Avalanche Danger Scale. Another project is analyzing the effectiveness of our current forecast and testing new methods of communicating. And another masters student is researching how social media influences decision making in avalanche terrain. 27
Education and Outreach
Avalanche Canada Training Programs The Avalanche Canada Training (ACT) program had a record-breaking year, with more than 15,000 people taking part in one of our courses. Over 13,000 students took an Avalanche Skills Training 1 course, a 28% increase over the previous high that was reached in 2018-19—our last full, non-pandemic season. AST 2 enrollment was up 42% over 2018-19. The number of snowmobilers taking a course increased, while the number of snowshoers who took a course almost tripled. We went into winter expecting strong enrollment in our courses, but we are still blown away by the uptake in our avalanche safety courses. It was a challenging year for the program, both due to the high numbers and the need to adapt to the pandemic. Fortunately, our courses were deemed essential by public health officials and we helped AST Providers adapt their delivery to meet provincial health restrictions.
AST 1 TEACHES THE FUNDAMENTALS OF AVALANCHE FORMATION, TRAVELLING IN AVALANCHE TERRAIN AND COMPANION RESCUE.
AST 2 INCREASES AND DEVELOPS KNOWLEDGE OF TERRAIN CHOICES, ROUTE FINDING AND DECISION MAKING IN AVALANCHE TERRAIN.
COMPANION RESCUE SKILLS A ONE-DAY COURSE OFFERING AN INTRODUCTION OR REFRESHER ON THE LATEST TECHNIQUES IN AVALANCHE INCIDENT RESPONSE.
MANAGING AVALANCHE TERRAIN A ONE-DAY COURSE FOR AST 1 GRADUATES, AIMED AT DEVELOPING MORE ADVANCED WINTER BACKCOUNTRY TRAVEL SKILLS.
AST 1 Course Participants
AST 2 Course Participants
CRS Course Participants
MAT Course Participants
Online Learning We worked hard to develop a framework for AST Providers to deliver the classroom portion of courses virtually. We created online classroom resources for AST 1 courses and recorded presentations were made available to all instructors to help them develop their practice. A live online training session was held early on to discuss various ways to utilize the online platforms and assess student learning. Providers were also given the option to develop their own online products. 78% of all providers delivered all or part of their classroom sessions virtually. Additionally, we provided digital keys for the AST Handbook so students could download a PDF version, enabling them to read the books before getting a hard copy on the field day.
AST Providers Avalanche Canada licenses providers to instruct our training courses. This year, they stepped up in a big way to not only meet the incredible demand for courses, but also adapt to new teaching environments. We provided instructors with flexibility in how they taught their courses and interacted with students. Some instructors took advantage of the online learning to provide an extra weekend field day. The online platform allowed students and instructors to connect after the field day, when everyone was refreshed. Some instructors used it to have open communication with students before, during, and after the course, and answered questions throughout the season. We are hugely appreciative of the efforts and initiatives our instructors showed this season. Online instruction will remain an option for AST Providers going forward.
AST 2 Curriculum We completed a significant update of our Avalanche Skills Training 2 curriculum this winter. AST 2 is a four-day course that is a must-have for any serious backcountry recreationist. Keith Robine, who co-authored the AST Handbook, was engaged to lead the work. He created a new instructor manual that builds on the foundation of the AST 1 course. The new curriculum incorporates the Daily Process, which is a structured approach to trip planning introduced in AST 1, and takes those concepts further. The course gives students lots of opportunities to apply all the steps—pre-trip planning, slope evaluation and verification during the trip, and post-trip debrief—under the guidance of the instructor.
Education and Outreach
Youth Programs Avalanche Canada’s Youth Outreach Program succeeded in reaching almost 3,700 students and youth in BC, Alberta, and the Yukon in 2020-21 despite the challenges presented by Covid-19. Our youth outreach team had to be very nimble and flexible this season to deliver programs throughout the winter. Early in fall, our instructors visited classrooms in-person where it was allowed. We were able to deliver in-person programming to 1,805 students before the second wave of Covid-19 struck later in the fall. Once the second wave started, we shifted to an online-only model. We used a mixture of Zoom, Google Meet, and Kahoot to deliver programming that included interactive games and questionnaires to keep students engaged. We taught 1,756 students with this online model. Many schools embraced online learning, but others turned it down as they much preferred our in-person presentations. It was a great reminder of how important and successful our in-school programming has been over the years, with schools bringing us in annually. We would like to thank the Columbia Basin Trust, Parks Canada, and the Hugh & Helen Hincks Fund for supporting our Youth Outreach Program.
Regional Breakdown Columbia Basin—1,494 students Avi-Smart (Calgary, Bow Valley and Columbia Valley): 1,515 students South Coast, Yukon, Okanagan, and Northern Alberta: 684 students Total: 3,693 students
Support for Schools Avalanche Canada 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, presentations, and more to aid in their lesson plans.
Youth AST Courses Thanks to the Columbia Basin Trust and local ski resorts, we were able to provide subsidized Avalanche Skills Training 1 courses for 132 youth in the Bow Valley, Golden, Revelstoke, Creston, Trail, Fruitvale, Rossland, Fernie, and Kimberley last winter. This was a big increase from 77 the previous winter. We also delivered our first subsidized youth AST 2 course in conjunction with the Opens Mountain Project in Revelstoke.
Toolbox Program Our Toolbox Program continues to be very popular. We maintain five toolboxes that each contain 20 sets of avalanche rescue gear, including transceivers, probes, and shovels. These boxes are circulated throughout western Canada during the winter so educators can teach avalanche rescue training to youth. Over 600 students in 35 different school programs benefited from the Toolbox Program this winter. Thank you to MEC, BCA, Mammut, and the Revelstoke Credit Union for supporting this important program.
Youth Education Team Our team: Shannon Werner, Coordinator, Josh Smith, Interim Coordinator, Abby Cooper, Colin Adamson, Mel Saarinen, Madeleine Martin-Preney, Dave Quinn, Brittany Dickson
“This was a worthwhile program and we would like to see it return. I think the personal stories and experiences shared were great. It was a great intro to avalanche safety. Thanks for being so adaptable!” Colleen Lee, Canadian Rockies Outdoor Learning Centre, Canmore Alberta
“Students were very engaged during the presentation (I know it’s hard to tell when they’re all sitting behind a computer without their cameras on). They loved asking Josh questions about his personal guiding experience. Thank you for this interesting presentation! I hope it sticks for them if they find themselves in the backcountry one snowy day” Nelize Gignoux, Dr. Martha Cohen School, Calgary, AB Our first subsidized youth AST 2 course was delivered this winter in Revelstoke, BC. Image: Bruno Long
Education and Outreach
Outreach Our outreach program was transformed this winter as the pandemic forced us to move everything online, to great success. Covid-19 meant we couldn’t deliver outreach in person, so instead we developed a free weekly webinar series that ran throughout the fall and winter. We delivered 19 presentations between late October and the end of March that reached almost 19,000 people in total. We will be continuing these going forward, even as society re-opens, as they allow us to engage with recreationists of all stripes no matter where they live. Our webinars were geographically and topically diverse. They covered everything from trip planning to understanding weather to important case studies. There were webinars for snowshoers, ice climbers, skiers, splitboarders, and snowmobilers. Our field teams in the Yukon, North Rockies, South Rockies, and Newfoundland all hosted webinars focused on their respective regions. We are very grateful for the participation of our many partners who presented alongside our forecasters and field team members. This includes AdventureSmart, Parks Canada, North Shore Rescue, the Meteorological Service of Canada, and our Avalanche Ambassadors. This great collaboration allowed us to share important backcountry safety messaging with the public like never before. Over the season, almost 5,400 people attended the live webinars and another 13,382 watched the recordings online. With so many more people accessing the backcountry this season, we are thrilled with the number of people that were engaged in these webinars. We received many enthusiastic questions and public feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Numerous donations were made that will help us to continue offering these core services that keep people safe while recreating in the backcountry.
James Floyer, Forecast Program Supervisor, presents at a webinar on the Renshaw avalanche tragedy that was attended by about 400 people. Image: Brent Strand
Avy Savvy Launched Avy Savvy, our new online tutorial was launched in late fall, just in time for the start of the winter season. We recognized there was going to be an influx of new backcountry users and wanted to create a product to help them start their backcountry journey. Avy Savvy was a major success and had more than 30,000 users last winter. Avy Savvy modernizes our tutorial and aligns the curriculum with our Avalanche Skills Training Handbook, with chapters on avalanche formation, avalanche terrain, the avalanche forecast, trip planning, and companion rescue. Our vision was to create a product that would prepare people for their first forays into winter backcountry recreation and provide a solid foundation for their AST 1 course. It's also a great tool for anyone looking to refresh knowledge. Built on a new platform, Avy Savvy was a major undertaking that involved collaboration between our IT team, communications group, and forecasters. It features hundreds of interactive photos, videos, quizzes, and exercises designed to help people start their avalanche journey. Among the highlights are: • Route finding exercises to help people navigate through the mountains. • Videos explaining the avalanche problems found in the forecasts. • Exercises created by Simon Fraser University that test the comprehension of the avalanche forecast. • An interactive section on companion rescue, featuring animation and video. In keeping with our aim of providing products in both official languages, Avy Savvy was translated to French, where it is called Ava Avisé. Thank you to K2, BCA, MEC, and the Community Foundations of Canada for supporting Avy Savvy.
Fresh to the Backcountry As part of our initiatives to reach new backcountry users, we printed stickers with a QR code that directs people to our Start Here page. The goal was to provide people with a quick and easy way to find basic avalanche safety information. The stickers proved to be very popular and almost 10,000 were sent out and distributed by retailers, manufacturers, outdoor clubs, ski resorts, snowmobile clubs, visitor centres, and more.
Education and Outreach
This image was included on a MIN report that made use of our new ice conditions features. Image: @Johnbestfather
Ice Climbing Initiatives Ice climbers were a major focus of our outreach efforts this winter. We worked with many members of that community on several initiatives aimed at avalanche safety for ice climbers. First, Sarah Hueniken, one of the best ice climbers in the world and an ACMG guide, joined us as an avalanche ambassador. We worked with her and filmmaker Heather Mosher on a video about avalanche safety for ice climbers that featured an all-star roster of Canadian ice climbers, including Sarah, Barry Blanchard, Will Gadd, and Grant Statham. It was extremely well received and has been viewed over 24,000 times. In the fall, we hosted a webinar for ice climbers where Sarah and Grant spoke to a captive audience. Finally, we added an ice conditions report function to the Mountain Information Network. Climbers can now use the MIN to report on the quality of the ice, share wind and weather observations, and track avalanche events. Tracking avalanches is especially important for ice climbers, as their sport has them in avalanche paths for extended periods of time. Knowing which paths have slid and when will be an important addition to their safety practices. It is important that our programs meet the needs of all of Canada’s unique backcountry communities and we are happy to hear how our new initiatives were received by ice climbers.
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. It is a grassroots event, where local organizations such as ski resorts, snowmobile clubs, BC Parks, Parks Canada, search and rescue groups, 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. This winter, Avalanche Awareness Days was scaled back due to the pandemic. We are grateful to those who found creative ways to host events. Thank you to the many volunteers who promote avalanche safety by putting on these events. We recognize the challenges that came with hosting AAD this winter and we hope to see many more partners back on board in 2022.
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. This was a challenging year for the program as snowmobile shows were cancelled and we did not conduct any in-person outreach due to Covid-19 restrictions. Instead, we hosted several free webinars geared towards snowmobilers, including a study of the Renshaw incident that was attended by close to 400 people. We supported snowmobile clubs where possible, providing them with copies of our Start Here stickers and other material. We also developed the avalanche safety content for a new online course from the Alberta Snowmobile Association.
Snowmobile Mentorship Mentorship is an indispensable and well-established pathway to success in the professional avalanche industry, yet snowmobilers face barriers not typically encountered by the ski sector when it comes to accessing professional practice. In the 2020-2021 season, Avalanche Canada initiated a pilot project to provide mentorship for emerging snowmobile avalanche practitioners through our field teams in the North and South Rockies. Mentees had the opportunity to build industry relationships while practicing skills such as snowpack evaluation, hazard assessment, and risk communication with guidance from our experienced field team staff. Avalanche Canada benefited by acquiring new data streams from our mentees, gaining sledders to spread our avalanche safety messaging, and improving our snowmobiling skills. Providing mentorships supports the professional growth of snowmobile practitioners, enabling them to go on to instruct sledbased AST 2 courses. We look forward to leveraging what we learned from this pilot project and providing this opportunity again for winter 2021-22.
Mentees learn about matching snow profile findings to terrain choices as part of the snowmobile mentorship program. Image: South Rockies Field Team
Education and Outreach
Sled Sponsors The majority of the work we do in the field requires mountain snowmobiles. For 10 years, we have had an agreement with the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association, which has arranged loaner mountain snowmobiles for our field team, forecasters, and outreach staff to use throughout the season. This program has been very valuable to us as we slowly acquire our own fleet. This work was even more important this winter as we expanded our field program to address data shortages in some of our large forecast regions. This winter, BRP/Ski-Doo supported us by loaning two BRP Summit 850 snowmobiles. These sleds came to us through Banner Recreation in Vernon, BC. Polaris has loaned us a snowmobile every winter since 2012. This winter, we were loaned a Polaris RMK Khaos 850 155 through Mountain Motorsports in Golden, BC. In the spring, they offered us a fantastic deal to purchase this machine in order to replace an aging snowmobile. We are very grateful to these companies for loaning us these machines. Without them, we could not collect the snowpack, weather, and avalanche data needed to produce forecasts for data-sparse regions.
Sled Com Our snowmobile committee (Sled Com) was established in 2009 with the purpose of better understanding and meeting the avalanche safety needs of the snowmobiling community. Over the years, Sled Com has been an effective voice for the community, providing Avalanche Canada with valuable feedback, networking and programming suggestions. Sled Com 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.
Gilles Valade, Avalanche Canada's executive director, uses a snowmobile loaned to us by Polaris in the Purcell Mountains near Golden. Snowmobiles allow our field teams to access diverse regions of the province to collect data for our forecasts. Image: Mark Bender
Growing the Role of Information Technology Avalanche Canada relies on technology to deliver our public safety products. The role of our IT department has increased substantially over the years, playing a crucial role in creating and improving products the public and our forecasters use daily. This year, our IT department grew to three full-time members. One of the team’s biggest projects was the development of Avy Savvy, which was built entirely in-house using a new platform. We are all very pleased and proud of the success of this microsite and have received many inquiries from educators interested in learning more about its development. Other key public products developed by our IT team include improvements to the Mountain Information Network, adding new terrain ratings to the Online Trip Planner, and implementing forecasts by text messages. Glacier National Park winter permit areas and new weather stations were added to the home page map. The team also worked with Avalanche Quebec to display forecasts on their website, and have their forecasts show up on ours, in French and English. The IT team’s work is just as important behind the scenes. This year our website received numerous performance upgrades, making it faster and more reliable. Work has begun on automatic French translations for our forecasts and other products, as well as improvements to website accessibility. New data streams were built, allowing our forecasts to be displayed by third parties like Gaia GPS and FATMAP. And key codes were developed so AST 1 students can now download copies of the AST Handbook before their courses. The IT team is especially vital to the ongoing development of AvID, our own custom forecasting software. Version 1.1 was developed in-house and successfully deployed in 2020; work has now begun on version 1.2, scheduled to deploy in the fall of 2022. This year, Avalanche Quebec was added as a user and a highway forecasting tool is being developed for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, one of our AvID collaborators. Snowpack modelling tools were operationalized for our forecasters, and new dashboards created to display weather and avalanche observations, as well as data from the Mountain Information Network. Having a strong and dedicated IT team gives us the ability to create products designed specifically for the needs of our users and staff, and the flexibility to adapt quickly. We are adding a fourth full-time member to the team for this coming winter and see no end in sight for our growing IT needs.
Our IT team on Frisby Ridge outside Revelstoke. From left: Bryce Shoers, Karl Guillotte, and Russell McWhae. Image: IT Department
2017-18 Avalanche Fatality Statistics
Fatal Incident Summary During the 2020-21 season, 12 people died in 10 fatal avalanche incidents in Canada between November 11, 2020, and May 30, 2021. Five of the 10 incidents, and six of the 12 fatalities, involved motorized backcountry users (snowmobilers and snow bikers). Reaching this user group continues to be a priority and one of our main challenges is promoting training for snowmobilers. This season, only 8% of the 15,029 students who attended Avalanche Canada Training courses were snowmobilers. Four skiers and two mountaineers also died in avalanches. Several incidents involved groups where people described as more experienced were in the mountains with less experienced folks; in these cases, the more experienced person died. In several incidents, others in the area came to help, and in one case a group that came to assist with companion rescue was credited with saving the life of a survivor. In two incidents, electronic interference was described as a complicating factor that hampered companion rescue efforts. Avalanche Canada is reviewing the issue of interference and has plans to provide advice and guidance on how to best manage this problem for the 2021-22 season. The current 10-year running average for annual fatalities is 10, which is at its lowest point since 1997. Despite the exponential growth in winter backcountry use over the past couple of decades, the annual average number of fatalities over that same time has been on a steady downward trend. There are likely various reasons why we are not seeing the number of fatalities rise but we feel confident that increased education and having a national standard for recreational avalanche training plays a role.
Annual Avalanche Fatalities in Canada Showing 10 Year Moving Average 25 20 15 10
Avalanche Fatalities 2012 – 2021 By Location
Newfoundland & Labrador
Avalanche Fatalities 2012 – 2021 By Activity Snowmobiling
Snowshoeing and Hiking
Putting it into Perspective Thoughts on Avalanche Fatality Statistics Not everything that counts can be counted For many years, Avalanche Canada’s vision was to reduce avalanche fatalities to zero. Recently, we adopted a new vision: “To inspire, engage, and empower recreationists to enjoy Canada's winter backcountry and be safe from avalanches.” Avalanche fatality statistics are one metric for the success of our programs but they don’t tell the whole story, because we don’t know how many backcountry users there are. We do know winter backcountry recreation has exploded in popularity amongst skiers, snowboarders, sledders, snowbikers, snowshoers, and more. What was once a niche activity is now mainstream. Avalanche fatalities have trended downwards and the 10-year moving average is at its lowest since the mid-90s, despite this explosion of backcountry use. This is no doubt very encouraging, but it’s not the only marker of our success. There are other metrics that showcase the success of our programs this year: the record enrolment in Avalanche Canada Training courses, the success of our webinar series, the record contributions to the Mountain Information Network, the rapid increase of our social media following and website views, and more. Seeing a downward trend in avalanche fatalities is encouraging and lets us know we are making a difference.
Financial Summary Total Revenues
Avalanche Canada Foundation
Public Avalanche Warning Products and Services 59%
Outreach, Education, Communications, and IT
Administration, Amortization, Facilities, and Other 16%
Self-Generated and Other
Image: North Rockies Field Team
Testimonials Over the past 17 years, BC AdventureSmart and Avalanche Canada have collaborated countless times, all in the name of increasing awareness to help reduce the number and severity of incidents in the winter backcountry. Avalanche Canada has given us opportunities to share our message on their platforms, which allows us to reach, educate, and inform more people by offering outdoor safety resources together. As outdoor recreation increases with an influx of user groups of varied skill levels and abilities, the messaging Avalanche Canada provides for unaware backcountry users is critical. It also supports the volunteers that may need to rescue backcountry users. If SAR incidents are reduced and less severe because outdoor enthusiasts are better prepared, that is a success! We look forward to continuing our long partnership with Avalanche Canada Sandra Riches, Executive Director, BC AdventureSmart
The presence of Avalanche Canada in western Newfoundland has been a welcome addition and is helping to move us in the right direction with respect to avalanche awareness and education. The two main user groups—skiers/snowboarders and snowmobilers—are seeing instant benefit. While we still sometimes hear comments like "avalanches don't happen in Newfoundland,” AvCan's presence, signage, tools, and social media posts are going a long way to dispel these myths. The AvCan team brings to light the potential dangers in our area, resulting in a more aware and better educated community. Bay of Islands Search & Rescue would like to thank Avalanche Canada for providing these resources. We look forward to continuing working with local AvCan reps to raise awareness and educate the many backcountry users in our area. Garry MacKenzie, Assistant Coordinator, Bay of Islands Search & Rescue
Since Backcountry Access (BCA) introduced its first avalanche transceiver in 1997, we have had the privilege of being partners in public avalanche safety in Canada. As BCA has evolved and become part of the K2 Sports family, we are now more than ever a part of so many backcountry experiences. From skiing to snowmobiling, and snowshoeing to splitboarding, K2 Sports provides equipment for everyone to have fun in the snow. As we provide access to the backcountry to so many more participants, our partnership with Avalanche Canada is more important now than ever. We were happy to support Avy Savvy, which helps introduce so many of our consumers, many of whom are new backcountry users, to avalanche safety. Through our ongoing support and partnership, we allow Avalanche Canada to do what it does best, which is to provide education and services so that everyone can play safe in the backcountry. Mike Medland, Marketing Manager, K2 Sports/Backcountry Access
Government Stakeholders Avalanche Canada is grateful for the support of the following government ministries and departments:
Governement 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 Capital Project 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
Government of Alberta Ministry of Environment and Parks
Government of Yukon Department of Community Services
Ministry of Citizens' Services DataBC
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.
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IL E A S S O
New Field Teams We are launching two new field teams this winter—one on Vancouver Island and one in Smithers, BC. The Vancouver Island team will allow us to expand our forecasts to this region for the first time ever; previously, forecasts were provided by the volunteer-run Vancouver Island Avalanche Centre. The Smithers team will collect data for our forecasts in the Northwest Inland forecast region, which is a datasparse area. This expansion is made possible in part by the $10 million in funding we received from the BC government in May.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion We are taking steps to ensure our programs and services are welcoming to Canada’s diverse population. Thanks to MEC, we are launching the $20,000 Avalanche Safety Grant, which will subsidize AST courses for BIPOC-led organizations in BC and Alberta that are led by Indigenous people and people of colour. We will also be creating more photo and video resources featuring non-white Canadians. This is just the beginning of a process. We are working with a diversity consultant to guide us, and strive to do more as we move forward.
AST 2 Motorized Curriculum After publishing our updated AST 2 curriculum this winter, we are now working on a version for motorized users. We have hired a subject matter expert to develop the curriculum and a committee will advise the work. AST 2 provides an advanced decision-making framework for travelling in avalanche terrain and we want to ensure this important course meets the unique needs of motorized recreationists. Only 8% of Avalanche Canada Training students last year were snowmobilers; we will be increasing our efforts to encourage these users to get training.
Website Improvements Our website will receive some improvements for the start of the 202122 season. This summer, we surveyed our users and staff to find out what they liked and disliked about the website, and where it can be improved. We aren’t touching the map, but are looking to make it easier for people to navigate the site and improve how it looks to make it more user-friendly. Image: Lyle Grisedale 45
Avalanche Canada Staff 2020-21 Executive Director Gilles Valade
North Rockies Field Team Martina Halik, Ben Hawkins, Dave Merritt
Avalanche Warning Service Manager Karl Klassen
Yukon Field Team James Minifie, Drew Nylan, Alastair Wain
Communications Director Mary Clayton
Newfoundland & Labrador Field Team Andy Nichols, Peter Thurlow
IT Manager Karl Guillotte
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, Shannon Werner
Forecasting Program Supervisors James Floyer, Ilya Storm
Assistant Controller Breanna Hartley
Senior Avalanche Forecasters Mark Bender, Grant Helgeson
Snowmobile Outreach Coordinator Brent Strand
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
Administrative Assistant Veronique Maillard Property & Building Upgrade Manager Vincent Jauvin
South Rockies Field Team Jennifer Coulter, Leslie Crawley, Lisa Larson
Some of the AvCan team during our weekly online staff meeting.
Board Engagement The board of directors continued to be engaged this year despite Covid, meeting online six times. The board’s executive committee also continued to meet weekly during operating season and every two weeks during slower periods. We are hoping to have some face-to-face meetings this year. The board of directors is comprised of individuals with a complimentary skill set. It is tasked with the overall governance of Avalanche Canada. Directors are involved in the strategic planning process and review and approve budgets. Their priority remains the long-term sustainability of the organization.
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 Canada Training 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
Finding New Ways to Fundraise The past year served as a testament to how innovative and divergent thinking can redefine how an organization meets and exceeds its mandate. Avalanche Canada and the Avalanche Canada Foundation had very successful operational seasons by engaging online platforms to provide outreach to backcountry users across Canada and fundraise. This was marked both by the number of people engaged and the number of dollars raised. Each week throughout winter, Avalanche Canada produced a very popular webinar series. It was rewarding to see the generosity of the nearly 5,400 participants, many of whom chose to donate during and after the presentations. Individual donations nearly doubled to almost $110,000 compared to the previous year! The fundraising highlight for the ACF came from two online events held late in 2020—Virtual Party for Powder and Double Your Donation, with close to $90,000 raised. And in March, we raised another $10,000 through the Backyard Backcountry Challenge. I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to all our donors and sponsors who contributed hard goods and experiences as prizes over the past year. We fully appreciate how challenging these times are to operate in and are genuinely grateful for your generosity that allowed our online auctions and events to be successful. We continue to disperse education grants to individuals pursuing education in snow science and professional-level training. I encourage anyone interested in what the ACF offers to check out our website for further details. In the spring, we received the long-awaited news that the BC Government committed to a one time, $10 million grant for Avalanche Canada. Combined with the Federal funds received in 2019, this grant helps provide operational stability for the organization for the next 10 years. These grants are held and managed by the Foundation and overseen by a committee. However, we still need your support. These grants do not cover Avalanche Canada’s entire budget, and spending restrictions on the government funds mean there are projects and capital costs that require non-restricted monies to develop. Whether it is a $10 personal donation or a $10,000 corporate sponsorship, every dollar counts toward Avalanche Canada providing services and tools to keep Canadians safe in the backcountry. The past two years have been a challenge for many, both personally and professionally. In closing, I want to take this opportunity to thank the ACF directors, volunteers, consultants, and the staff at Avalanche Canada. The ability to adapt and work together virtually with such successful outcomes speaks to the calibre of the team that comprises this world-class organization. I wish each of you and your family a safe, healthy, and peaceful winter season!
Cheryl Goodwin, President
Fundraising Prior to the pandemic, the Avalanche Canada Foundation’s main sources of fundraising were live events. Covid-19 forced us to cancel our two major in-person fundraisers—Party for Powder in Calgary and Art for Avalanche Canada in Whistler—and switch our focus to online fundraising. We hosted three successful online fundraisers this winter—the Virtual Party for Powder in November, Double Your Donation in December, and the Backyard Backcountry Challenge in March. Switching to online events was challenging, but the benefits far outweighed the negatives. Virtual Party for Powder The Virtual Party for Powder was a major success, generating over $70,000 in revenue. The online event had a much broader audience, attracting winning bidders from coast to coast. There was more exposure for our steadfast sponsors, who rolled their sponsorship from the live events to the online event. A new software platform allowed us to streamline the raffle process, making prize draws a new and innovative way to raise funds.
Double Your Donation In December, we launched the Double Your Donation campaign. Maggi Thornhill Personal Real Estate Corp. agreed to match all donations made to the ACF that month, up to $10,000. The campaign succeeded in raising $27,925 for public avalanche safety,
Backyard Backcountry Challenge In March, we hosted the Backyard Backcountry Challenge. Participants were challenged to ski tour the vertical of Mount Everest (8,849 metres) over the course of the month, while staying close to home. 178 people took part in the challenge, with 48 succeeding in “summiting” Everest. Collectively, all registrants logged 857,722 metres of climbing and riding, and almost $10,000 was raised. The ACF looks forward to resuming live events in the coming year while continuing to leverage the benefits on online fundraising.
Thanks to Our Major Donors • Anonymous • Bruce Chernoff • Canmore Brewing Company • Cindy Dekker • Dan & Nikki Hincks • Darrell Peterson • Estate of The Honourable Hugh F. Landerkin, Q.C. • Gord & Deb Ritchie • Jim Hall & Cendrine Tremblay • John Phillips • Keenan Cannady
• Lianne Gulka • Maggi Thornhill Personal Real Estate Corporation • Michael LoVecchio • Mike Reynen • Norma Jean Hogg • Patricia Sloan • Pernod Ricard • Piers & Marnie Fothergill • Viewpoint Foundation • Whitney & Darcy Dueck
Grants and Awards The following awards were granted by the Avalanche Canada Foundation in 2020-21. Simon Fraser University • $20,000 was granted in support of the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Avalanche Risk Management. This is the sixth year of a seven-year commitment totalling $240,000
Despite the pandemic and many competing causes, this year the avalanche community rallied in support of the Avalanche Canada Foundation, resulting in the largest volume of individual donations in recent history. The Foundation also took steps in 2020 to reduce overhead expenses, which are now beginning to positively impact the bottom line. In 2021, the Province of British Columbia awarded the Foundation a $10 million grant, to be held trust for Avalanche Canada. This agreement will support and enhance avalanche-related programs and services delivered by Avalanche Canada within BC over the next 10 years. These funds will be managed by the investment committee, according to strict guidelines. We are grateful for this provincial funding and the federal endowment from 2019, but the Foundation continues to require support from the avalanche community. Given the sustained increase in winter backcountry use, the long-term needs of the backcountry community exceed the financial resources available. Our fundraising activities will continue to be a critical pillar in supporting Avalanche Canada.
Revenues 2020-21 Fundraising 85,998
ISSW Fund • Two awards totalling $3,693 Cora Shea Memorial Fund • One award of $750 Craig Kelly Memorial Fund • Two awards totalling $1,000
Interest and Other
Hugh and Helen Hincks Memorial Fund • Two awards totalling $17,250
Grants 29,835 Fundraising 28,171 Office, Insurance and Overhead 32,076 Total
NOTE: All information is from the Foundation’s audited year-end financial statements as of June 30, 2021.
Avalanche Canada Foundation Board of Directors President Cheryl Goodwin Vice-President Keenan Cannady Treasurer James Titterton Secretary Fabian Karg Directors Adam Campbell, Robbie Dixon, Ted Hincks, Quinn Ingham, Julia LoVecchio, Darrell Peterson, Gilles Valade, Kevin Williams Fund Development Coordinator Michele Dauphinee
Image: Troy Grant
Image: Mike Conlan i