Canadian Avalanche Centre Annual Report 2012-13

Page 1

2012-13 Annual Report A Year of Collaboration


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

12 Public Avalanche Warning Service 16 Education 18 Communications and Outreach 26 Special Projects Mountain Snowmobile Education Project North Rockies Pilot Project Avalanche Terrain Ratings

31 Financial Summary 32 2012-13 Avalanche Fatality Statistics 34 Looking Forward 35 Our People Board of Directors Staff

Image: Chris Christie

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

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

safety programs; • Providing a public avalanche

warning system; • Delivering public avalanche awareness

and education programs; • Providing avalanche related training to

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

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


A Message from the Acting Executive Director It’s fair to say the CAC had a challenging year. A new Board of Directors was in the process of coming up to speed. Ian Tomm stepped down as Executive Director. There was uncertainty in our budget and concerns about our finances. Our IT Manager Kristina Welch moved on to pursue a Ph.D. We started an ambitious project to improve our mobile presence. We also embarked on a search for a new ED, which has just wrapped up. We overcame all challenges and there is no doubt we had a great year. Just page through this report and see what’s been accomplished—from the lowest fatality count since 1984 to a first-ever field presence in the North Rockies to reaching more young people than ever before. And once again, the CAC is looked to as a global leader in public avalanche safety for projects as diverse as snowpack modelling to rating avalanche terrain.

the operational staff in Revelstoke who do the heavy lifting; the Board of Directors who set policy and provide governance and oversight; our funders, sponsors, donors, and members who provide financial support; the Avalanche Skills Training providers, a key building block in our efforts to provide education; and the avalanche industry as a whole, which forms the foundation upon which we have built the CAC’s world-renowned forecasting program. There’s not enough room here to properly thank all the people, organizations, and agencies that helped make this year such an outstanding achievement, though they all deserve it. Finally, I am excited about introducing the new Executive Director Gilles Valade to all of you so that together we can continue the awesome work that is done by the CAC.

Karl Klassen, Acting Executive Director

The CAC would not be possible, much less successful, without a talented team that works mostly behind the scenes. This team includes

Image: Mike Adolph

A Message from the President The Canadian Avalanche Centre is an amazing organization. No matter what curves are thrown at the organization, the staff are an exceptional group of people truly dedicated to the safety of winter recreationists across Canada. This group worked extraordinarily hard this past winter filling in for unexpected staff shortages, and they should be commended by all of us for their extra effort, time and diligence! The Board is truly thankful for this devoted group of people. By the time this Annual Report is published we will have hired a new Executive Director to help lead the CAC into the future. It is an exciting time of renewal and forwardthinking vision and action. One of the key CAC strategic initiatives this year has been to develop a closer working relationship with the Canadian Avalanche Foundation (CAF). We are moving toward a real foundation and operating business model where the CAF will play a much greater role in funding CAC operations. We hope to share efforts in an ever-increasing manner over the next few years. It’s just another sign of the amazing support from the CAC community, an ever-expanding network of avalanche professionals, supporters, funders, members and friends. We could not do what we do without you! Are we optimistic about the future of the CAC? Absolutely; 2013-14 is going to be a great year!

Ross Cloutier, President


Our Community

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

Government of British Columbia

Government of Canada

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure

Environment Canada Meteorological Service of Canada Parks Canada

Ministry of Justice Emergency Management BC Coroners Service

Ministry of National Defense National Search and Rescue Secretariat

Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas and Responsible for Housing Gaming Policy and Enforcement Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Recreation Sites and Trails GeoBC Ministry of Environment BC Parks Ministry of Labour, Citizens' Services and Open Government DataBC

Government of Alberta Ministry of Tourism, Parks and Recreation

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

Presenting Sponsors

Avalanche Awareness Days

Backcountry Avalanche Workshop Series

Avalanche Skills Training Program

Companion Rescue Skills Training and the South Rockies Field Program

Become a Sponsor Today AST Snowmobile Program Are you interested in becoming a CAC sponsor and making a difference in public avalanche safety? Contact Sponsorship and Marketing Coordinator Jennifer George at


Our Community

Stellar Sponsor

Supporting Sponsors

Contributing Sponsors Driving Force Innate Gear Kootenay Mountain Culture and Coast Mountain Culture magazines. Savage Marketing

As a founding sponsor of the CAC, Canadian Pacific is committed to operating safely in avalanche terrain. The CAC promotes public avalanche safety in the mountain communities along our tracks, helps foster essential research and provides CP with vital avalanche information. Robert MacLean, Director, Customer & Integrated Communications Canadian Pacific

MEC has proudly partnered with the CAC since its inception. Specifically, MEC supports the world-class work the CAC does by granting money, providing access to our rental programs, and by reaching out to our members about the CAC’s programs. The CAC is one of our closest partners and we look forward to continuing the promotion of fun and safe snow sports together long into the future.

The Canadian Avalanche Foundation

The Canadian Avalanche Foundation (CAF) was formed in 1999 to provide a tax-deductible fundraising mechanism for the support of public avalanche safety initiatives in Canada. The CAF is a tremendous supporter of the CAC; since 1999, they have provided over $1,500,000 in support of public avalanche safety, education and research.

Andrew Stegemann, Community Program Manager Mountain Equipment Co-op

At Teck we are proud to support the CAC’s South Rockies field observer team, whose work in our local backcountry has helped raise awareness of avalanche safety in local communities, impacting many of our employees. We have received excellent feedback about our ongoing partnership with the CAC, whose work is a perfect match to our own strong safety focus.

We're looking at ways to work more closely with the CAC. It only makes sense. Gordon Ritchie, CAF President

Nic Milligan, Manager of Community and Aboriginal Affairs, Sparwood Teck Learn more about the CAF at


Our Community

CAC Supporters These people and organizations are Supporter Members, which gives them representation on the CAC Board of Directors. The annual fee for Supporter membership is $200, a contribution that is applied directly to CAC core programs. Thank you for your support of public avalanche safety. 1664 BMX Ltd. Azimuth Solutions Inc. Bissonnette, Donald & Deanne Brebner Black Bull Enterprises Ltd. Bulkley Backcountry Ski Society Calgary Scrambling and Mountaineering Club Crowfoot Mountain Snowmobile Club Delayo, Dianne Donald, David Douglas, Steven Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club Earth Fire Energy East Kootenay Community Credit Union G.M. Horel Engineering Ltd. Geller, Andrea Gigliotti, Mike Halcol Construction Ltd Holy Smoke Inn Hunter's Range Snowmobile Association Iron Horse Racing Kamloops Snowmobile Association Kusumoto, Tom Merritt Snowmobile Club Maxwell, Roy Norris, DJ Slocan Valley Snowmobile Association Snowwater Heli-Skiing Inc Tetrahedron Outdoor Club Valemount Area Recreation Development Association West Kootenay SnoGoers Wild Mountain Woodhouse, Rick White, Lawrence Wyle, Heidi

The Revelstoke Snowmobile Club is a strong partner of the CAC. Here, President Greg Byman presents the proceeds from a fundraising night with Team Thunderstruck. Image: CAC Staff

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



Go Farther Billboards The North Rockies CAC Fundraising Committee Canuck Splitfest and Wade Galloway Team Thunderstruck and the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club RBC – Shuswap Youth Program Team Thunderstruck and Kelowna Yamaha The Choice Shop Snowboard Shop University of BC Varsity Outdoor Club Calgary Snowmobile Club Valemount Area Recreation Development Association Resorts of the Canadian Rockies Aleta Corbett & Marcus Ebner Wedding Alpine Club of Canada – Vancouver Apex Mountain Resort Avalanche Knitters – Fernie BC Mountaineering Club Birdgeneau, Mike Blouin, Paul Bridge Lake Bushwackers Snowmobile Club Davies, Brian DelFante, Paul Fernie Alpine Resort/Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (Avalanche Awareness Days) Flynn, James Gentlemans Leisure Club of Golden Houlden, Trevor Lake Louise Ski Resort (Avalanche Awareness Days) Mount Washington Ski Resort Ltd. (Avalanche Awareness Days) Nakiska Mountain Resort (Avalanche Awareness Days) O'Neill, David Patten, Steven Pemberton Valley Snowmobile Club Quinn, Nick Raven Eye Photography Ross, Dr. Susan Schaerer, Peter Sparrow. Ron Stefansson, Kristin and Jan Pedersen The Bean Pod Townsend, Robert Wild Mountain Calgary

This winter, the Alberta Snowmobile Association (ASA) and Sandman Hotel Group sponsored three billboards encouraging mountain snowmobilers to check the avalanche forecast at Located on Highway 3 at Crowsnest Pass, Highway 16 in Hinton and the TransCanada Highway in Golden, the billboards were in place from December until the start of April.

The ASA is pleased to work with the CAC as a supporting sponsor on many snowmobile initiatives; this billboard project is just the latest in a series of very productive collaborations. ASA Executive Director Chris Brookes


Our Community

CAC Service Awards Each spring at our annual conference, we present CAC Service Awards to individuals or organizations demonstrating a significant commitment to public avalanche safety in Canada. These were the winners in 2012. ers Parks Canada provides immense contributions to public avalanche safety in Canada, including the development of AvalX avalanche forecasting software launched for the 2011-12 winter season.

Jereme Hanke is a tireless promoter of avalanche awareness within the mountain snowmobiling community. An avalanche survivor, his ongoing dedication to avalanche safety has made a big difference.

Each year, the UBC Varsity Outdoor Club runs over 100 member-led trips into avalanche terrain. The safety of our members depends on the Canadian Avalanche Centre’s public avalanche forecasts, outreach and training programs. There is no question that we will do our utmost to support the CAC in any way we can. Caitlin Schneider, President University of British Columbia Varsity Outdoor Club

Community Highlights Your Vote, Your Cause The CAC was one of three organizations chosen for Mountain Equipment Co-op’s “Your Vote, Your Cause” campaign during their Board of Directors election. MEC generously donated one dollar per vote, and the CAC received close to $4,500 through the initiative. “Your Vote, Your Cause was a way to engage our members and highlight some of the national partners we have and the amazing work they do. Given the popularity of backcountry snowsports and the importance of public avalanche safety, the CAC was an obvious choice as one of the candidates. It’s just one of the many ways we support the CAC and playing safe in the snow.” Andrew Stegemann, Community Program Manager, Mountain Equipment Co-op

International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association This year, the CAC received snowmobiles for programs and services from Bombardier Recreational Products, Arctic Cat Inc., and Polaris Industries. The CAC was also able to purchase a snowmobile from Yamaha Canada at a very reasonable rate. We appreciate the ongoing support of all four snowmobile manufacturers.

Buck-A-Day Program The following member clubs of the Association of BC Snowmobile Clubs contribute one dollar from every trail fee charged to support the CAC core services and snowmobile programs. In 2012–13, the Buck-A-Day program contributed $32,501 to the CAC Blue River Powder Packers Coquihalla Summit Snowmobile Club Crowfoot Mountain Snowmobile Club Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club Hunters Range Snowmobile Association Merritt Snowmobile Club Smithers Snowmobile Association Valemount Area Recreation Development Association

InfoEx InfoEx is operated by the CAC’s sister organization, the Canadian Avalanche Association (CAA), which serves and supports Canada’s avalanche professionals. InfoEx subscribers are organizations and commercial businesses employing CAA Professional Members who manage avalanche risk during the winter months (e.g. heli- and cat-skiing companies, BC Highways, ski areas, mountain parks). InfoEx is a uniquely Canadian service, exchanging critical technical data within the professional community while providing an invaluable contribution to public avalanche safety. Running continuously every winter since 1991, InfoEx is a daily electronic exchange of technical snow, weather, avalanche and terrain data between avalanche workers. In cooperation with InfoEx subscribers, the CAA supports the CAC’s access to this vital data for the production and verification of avalanche forecasts and reports. The significance of this technical data to public avalanche safety by avalanche professionals and the diverse industries they serve cannot be overstated.

Image: Sylvain Hebert

Learn more at industry-services/infoex


Public Avalanche Warning Servicea

Avalanche Forecasting 1,865,255 32% Increase from 2011-12 in requests for public avalanche forecasts and reports, via or RSS emails. Between April 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013.

Learn more at /cac/bulletins

Public avalanche forecasting is what we’re best known for. Our Public Avalanche Warning Service department consists of eleven public avalanche forecasters, a forecast coordinator, a manager and six field technicians (all on a part-time basis).

Thanks for all you guys do. Your bulletins are easily the most useful piece of information when planning a trip into the backcountry. They're good peace of mind knowing what things are like before we head out. Jason Fedorchuk, Fort McMurray, AB

We offer daily avalanche forecasts and weekly conditions reports to help winter backcountry users make informed decisions to better manage their avalanche risk. These avalanche safety products are designed to help all recreational users— whether they’re sledders, skiers and boarders, or snowshoers. Avalanche forecasts provide the avalanche danger rating and the primary avalanche problems for each region. The public can access 23 public avalanche warning products produced by six agencies via our website • Fifteen CAC forecasts and reports in BC and AB • Parks Canada Banff/Kootenay/Yoho Glacier Waterton Jasper • Kananskis Country, Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation • Whistler Backcountry • Vancouver Island Avalanche Bulletin • Centre d’avalanche de la Haute Gaspésie

Modelling Success At the CAC, the way we forecast avalanches is unique in the world. In traditional programs, forecasters are in the field daily, gathering the snow, weather and avalanche observations needed to produce a forecast. But at the CAC, the extent of our forecasting area makes this approach unworkable. The CAC provides daily forecasts for 12 separate regions, covering over 230,000 square kilometres. The main source of data for CAC forecasts is the professional network known as InfoEx (see page 11 for more information). Avalanche workers throughout the mountains of western Canada submit daily data, providing the CAC with a strong foundation for building their daily forecasts. But this professional network has its limits, and doesn’t include some areas where recreational use is high. Expanding our forecasts to include these data-sparse areas has been one of our main challenges. We’re working on solutions and believe modelling will help. Dr. Sascha Bellaire is developing a way to generate synthetic snow profiles using meteorological data derived from Environment Canada. His work is based on a Swiss model called SNOWPACK. The European approach depends on quite sophisticated weather inputs from very advanced remote weather stations. Dr. Bellaire has made some important changes to SNOWPACK, allowing it to run on data from a weather forecast, as opposed to data from an actual weather station. This winter, we worked with Dr. Bellaire in developing prototypes and validating the model in the North Rockies. If we are able to continue development, this technology has the potential to play a significant role in the expansion of public avalanche safety programs throughout Canada and in particular, to those regions where professional observations are scarce. This project is getting global attention and we’re moving to a collaboration with several international partners to continue this work.

Award for AvalX This winter, our avalanche bulletin software AvalX won a G-Tec Award for information management excellence in the public sector. AvalX was developed by Parks Canada with the CAC as a primary partner, and won Gold in the category of “Working Together to Make a Difference.” The award recognizes outstanding achievement in government partnerships with other organizations. We are very proud of our ongoing collaboration with Parks Canada, which has helped make Canada a world leader in public avalanche safety. Image above: Parks Canada’s Grant Statham (centre) presents the award to CAC’s IT Director Kristina Welch and acting Executive Director Karl Klassen. CAC Staff


Public Avalanche Warning Service

CAC Field Programs Yukon Working in collaboration with the Yukon Avalanche Association, we increased our Yukon report to two per week this season, and hired a third avalanche field technician. The team also put out frequent YouTube video updates on snowpack and avalanche conditions. The Yukon field team travelled throughout the Klondike region to collect weather, snowpack and avalanche observation data, and participated in community outreach and education. The YAA has appreciated the ongoing commitment and dedication of the whole team at the CAC—providing forecast services, co-ordinating our field team, and developing innovative communication products to reach our target backcountry audiences. We are very pleased with the results of our collaborative efforts and look forward to the third winter of this pilot project in 2013-14. Jim Bishop President, Yukon Avalanche Association

South Rockies The three-person South Rockies field team collects weather, snowpack and avalanche observation data throughout the South Rockies region. This information and insight helps public avalanche forecasters in the Revelstoke issue daily South Rockies forecasts. CAC forecasters went to the South Rockies several times this winter and South Rockies technicians visited Revelstoke in a regular exchange that integrated the field and forecasting programs. The South Rockies avalanche technicians are very visible in their local area, presenting at Avalanche Awareness Days events and a full-house Backcountry Avalanche Workshop in Fernie. Members of the team also taught a snowmobile-specific AST 1 course subsidized by Teck Resources Limited and the CAC Mountain Snowmobile Education Project.

The CAC field programs rely on generous support from all four snowmobile manufacturers—Yamaha Canada, Bombardier Recreational Products, Arctic Cat Inc., and Polaris Industries. Image: Raven Eye Photography



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

AST Course Participants AST 1 7,000

AST 2 Companion Rescue Skills


Presented by 3,000

1,000 07-08






AST Course Instructors 350



50 08-09





Each year, we have seen the number of licensed AST instructors across Canada grow, up to 292 in the current year. AST Instructors are professional avalanche workers with a passion for public avalanche safety. They stay up-to-date though CAC or industry-approved training to provide the most informative experience to AST students.

Online Avalanche Course First launched in 2005 and updated significantly in 2009, our online avalanche course was the third most visited area on the CAC website this season. The online avalanche course had nearly 29,000 pageviews this year, up 62% over last year. We used Facebook to promote the online avalanche course and received lots of positive feedback from users. The online avalanche course is a very helpful resource, either as a refresher for recreationists or a starting point for those looking to learn more about avalanche formation, avalanche terrain, pre-trip planning, reducing risk, avalanche rescue, incident reporting, and more.

Students in an Avalanche Skills Training course practice the conveyor shovelling method. Image: Brent Strand

Learn more at training/online-course


Communications and Outreach

Emergency Management BC In March, Emergency Management BC partnered with the CAC for a spring avalanche awareness blitz targeted at out-of-bounds skiers, sharing messaging on Twitter ( emergencyprepbc). We provided EMBC with out-of-bounds safety messages, which they turned into four short video clips that we shared on Facebook and Behind the Lines. Image below: CAC forecaster Joe Lammers delivers some outof-bounds safety messaging in a video during a spring communications push.

Reaching Out Effective communications is integral to the work of the CAC and our methods for reaching out to backcountry users, partners and stakeholders are always evolving. Over the past winter season, our forecasters gave close to 200 interviews for television, radio, newspaper and online media services. This winter we used Skype much more for television interviews, which previously would have been conducted over a phone line. This technology gives our forecasters and our office a greater presence and we will see its use expand. Audiences are becoming accustomed to the look and we are becoming comfortable with its limitations. We also had an increase in regularly scheduled interviews this winter, with television and radio stations wanting a weekly update on backcountry conditions. And as you can see on the opposite page, our social media efforts continue to produce outstanding results. There has been a substantial growth in backcountry use, and we see a related growth in media interest. Our overall communications goal is to raise awareness of the need for avalanche education and increase the use of CAC programs and services by all backcountry users.

Smartphone App We’re thrilled to be launching a new multi-platform smartphone application in the fall of 2013, thanks to the generous sponsorship of Mountain Equipment Co-op. The completely revamped cross-platform app will allow backcountry users to check the avalanche forecast on the fly. The app will cache bulletins for easy access when out of service and include an interactive map. We have seen a steady rise in mobile traffic to our website, so we’re sure this free app will be a big hit with users.

CAC forecaster Penny Goddard explains the current avalanche conditions for a Vancouver audience. Image: Mary Clayton


Communications and Outreach

Website Statistics Between April 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013, we had 290,912 visitors making 1,076,257 visits to, with 3,593,079 page views. These numbers are on par with 2011. In 2012, approximately 280,167 visits came from mobile devices, a 30% increase over 2011. Apple products represented 236,661 of those visits. Android visits grew from 17,000 in 2011 to 36,752. The release of a multi-platform smartphone application in September 2013 will surely bolster those numbers. The avalanche bulletin pages are the most viewed pages on our website, representing almost 50% of our website traffic. The incident report database and the online avalanche course follow in popularity.

Social Media Facebook The CAC’s fanbase on Facebook grew by more than 1,600 between April 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013 to reach over 7,050. This is consistent with Facebook growth in 2011-12. Between April 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013, Facebook referred 50,147 visits to, up from 41,201 in 2011, and 6,940 visits were referred from Facebook’s mobile application, up from 4,165 in 2011.

Twitter Between April 1, 2012 and March 31, 2012, Twitter fans increased from 1,850 to 3,035. Twitter referred 3,460 visits to

Facebook canadianavalanchecentre anadianavalanchecentre

Twitter YouTube @avalancheca ancheca CanadianAvalancheCtr A snowmobiler gives perspective to a fracture line on the flank of an avalanche in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland. Image: Courtesy Keith Nicol

Cross-Canada Outreach British Columbia and Alberta spring to mind when thinking about avalanche terrain, but the CAC’s outreach efforts spread across the country to anywhere avalanches are possible. Atlantic Provinces In February, the CAC issued an unprecedented avalanche hazard alert for the Atlantic provinces after a close call during a heavy storm cycle in February. The alert advised people engaged in activities like backcountry skiing, snowmobiling and tobogganing to be aware of the hazard and take precautions.

Newfoundland The CAC has provided ongoing support of avalanche awareness initiatives in Newfoundland since 2006. In partnership with the Canadian Avalanche Foundation, our programs target snowmobilers, skiers and youth. This winter, CAC funding helped our Newfoundland stakeholders reach backcountry users in a variety of ways: hands-on emergency measures sessions in Corner Brook; outreach presentations in four schools; several magazine articles; YouTube videos; presentations at Nordic ski clubs; a workshop for 16 high school teachers; an AST course which included two teachers who hope to include avalanche awareness in physical education classes; a halfday session to adventure tourism students and online outreach. Fundraising also produced $585 for the CAF.

Quebec This year, the CAC provided $20,000 to the Centre d’avalanche de la Haute Gaspésie (CAHG) to help their public avalanche safety programs and services. The funds assist the CAHG in delivering public avalanche activities across Quebec; provide avalanche forecasting in the Chic-Chocs Mountains; support staff training and professional development; provide resources for AST instructors and students in the province; and translating key documents used by the CAHG and CAC.


Communications and Outreach

Backcountry Workshops

Avalanche Awareness Days This winter, 31 venues across Canada held Avalanche Awareness Days events to promote winter backcountry education and safety through demonstrations, film viewings, speakers, info booths, transceiver basins, and more. Over $9,000 was raised to support the CAC’s public avalanche forecasts. Image above: Lake Louise Resort Avalauncher demonstration. Jason MacQueen

Presented by

In November, the CAC held two full-day Backcountry Workshops in Revelstoke and Calgary. These events featured presentations from avalanche experts on topics such as the avalanche bulletins; terrain assessment; avalanche character; transceiver technology; mountain weather resources; avalanche airbag packs; search and rescue; videos, and other research. The days also featured hands-on transceiver and rescue dog demos, along with sponsor and retailer booths. The two events reached over 300 people.

Thank you to all of our sponsors: the Revelstoke Credit Union and the Columbia Basin Trust in Revelstoke; and Resorts of the Canadian Rockies and the University of Calgary Outdoors Centre in Calgary.

Workshops on the Road In the late fall, our outreach events help backcountry users prepare for the winter season. The CAC held seven Backcountry Avalanche Workshops in the communities listed below, led by a CAC forecaster and local professionals offering practical knowledge and highlighting CAC products. The CAC also partnered with other organizations for outreach events: the University of British Columbia Varsity Outdoor Club; the Alpine Club of Canada, Vancouver section; Valemount Area Recreation and Development Association; Mountain Equipment Co-op; Teck Resources Limited; and the Yukon Avalanche Association. • Kamloops • Kelowna • Merritt • Nelson • Rossland • Sicamous • Whitehorse

The brand new Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre was a great venue for our Backcountry Workshop. A number of our sponsors and partners supported the Revelstoke and Calgary events by setting up booths. Image: Ben Shaw

Presented by


Communications and Outreach

Youth The CAC’s Youth Avalanche Education program creates materials to support teachers and other youth educators in the delivery of age-specific avalanche awareness and education. Bigbend Skis This season, custom ski manufacturer Bigbend Skis designed a CACbranded ski and donated a portion of the proceeds from each pair to CAC youth avalanche education programming. Their ‘Graphics that Give’ program is a creative way of supporting the CAC. “Manufacturing custom skis and knowing that Bigbend’s efforts will help fund some of the CAC’s youth programs is very rewarding,” says Bigbend Skis owner Daryl Ross.

For more information and to order, visit graphics-give.

The CAC is a hub of youth avalanche educational materials, providing resources to educators, parents, group leaders and youth. These include avalanche safety school kits, avalanche equipment Tool Boxes and the CAC website. Thanks to a grant from the Canadian Avalanche Foundation, we created new educational materials this season, including annotated PowerPoints, a Q&A guide to ‘The Fine Line’ avalanche training videos, and educational photos. We delivered avalanche awareness programs to more than 1,500 K – 12 students in Revelstoke and Golden over the season. This year, we also delivered avalanche awareness programs to over 1,200 students in the Salmon Arm/Shuswap area.

Snowmobiling and skiing are huge here in winter, so your presentations were timely, appropriate, and engaging. Scott Anderson, Principal, Shuswap Middle School

This winter, 589 youth took an Avalanche Skills Training course; that is 8% of all AST participants, and an increase of 15% over last season. More and more educators are also taking AST or professional-level avalanche training in order to better teach students. We also partner with the Alberta Snowmobile Association to deliver avalanche safety messaging to schools in rural communities throughout Alberta. Last year, close to 15,000 students received this education.

Behind the Lines In September 2012, we took over Behind the Lines, a youthfocused Facebook page created to inspire avalanche awareness in young backcountry enthusiasts. The Canadian Avalanche Foundation launched it several years ago, and passed it on to the CAC through the generous support of the Hugh and Helen Hincks Memorial Fund. The page’s goal is to help youth realize the hard work, avalanche awareness and safety precautions that go into riding big lines in avalanche terrain. Visit facebook. com/CAC.behindthelines and spread the word. Congratulations to our inaugural avalanche awareness video contest winners: Oliver Langhorst of Canmore, the 5th West Vancouver Mountaineer Scouts, and Madeline Archibald of Golden. Each won a transceiver, shovel and probe.

Our youth education program focuses on delivering agespecific messaging. The concept of proper preparation for backcountry/out-of-bounds is introduced in grade 4. Here, young students learn the basics of an avalanche transceiver search. Image: Steve Ruskay

Behind the Lines is a great example of using social media to connect with youth. Gordon Ritchie, CAF President


Special Projects

Mountain Snowmobile Education Project The CAC and Emergency Management BC are two years into this three-year project funded by the National Search and Rescue Secretariat New Initiatives Funding Program. The project’s goal is to reduce the number of avalanche fatalities among mountain snowmobilers through improved communications and targeted avalanche awareness initiatives. It was a busy year for the project. We began filming an avalanche awareness video project to be released next season. We sent media packages to snowmobile dealers, and we created bilingual posters and brochures for safe snowmobile riding practices. Project Coordinator Carole Savage attended snowmobile shows in Abbotsford, Vernon, Edmonton and Saskatoon, and presented at the 2012 International Snowmobile Congress in Sturbridge, MA, the 2013 Polaris Dealers Conference in Phoenix, AZ, and the Association of BC Snowmobile Clubs’ AGM. She also attended snowmobile events in Whistler and Revelstoke. The project helped make several new avalanche training options available to snowmobilers this year. The Canadian Avalanche Association hosted its first Search and Rescue-based Avalanche Operations Level 1 course on snowmobile. Subsidized AST courses were held in the South and North Rockies regions, with 34 attendees in the North Rockies and 23 in the South Rockies. Twenty-seven snowmobilers received bursaries to take their CAA Avalanche Operations Level 1.

Throttle Decisions One of the main outcomes from year two of the Mountain Snowmobile Education project is the production of an educational video aimed at mountain riders. In October of 2012, a request for proposals went out to production companies across Canada. After a close competition, Francois Desrosiers of FD Productions won the bid. In addition to his experience as a film maker, Francois is a backcountry enthusiast with many years on skis and snowmobiles. We feel certain that his passion for the subject in addition to his technical expertise will help us produce an excellent product. The video will be produced in short 10 – 15 minute modules, each addressing a different aspect of mountain and avalanche safety. In addition, Francois will also produce a short module aimed at youth, which we will use in our school outreach programs

The DVDs from this project are scheduled to be available for the winter of 2013-14.

Image: Jonathan Reich


Special Projects

North Rockies Pilot Project With its many popular winter recreational areas, there is a high demand for an avalanche safety program in the North Rockies region. However, without a consistently reliable flow of professionalquality data, CAC forecasters have been unable to provide backcountry users with the advice they need. Over the summer and fall of 2012, two agencies came forward to help— the Government of BC and Apache Corporation. Recreation Sites & Trails BC committed $50,000 to the project. Apache Corporation donated $25,000 and two remote weather stations with associated telemetry. With this financial help, the CAC was able to run a pilot project over the winter, laying some important groundwork for future public avalanche safety programs and services in the region. Over the winter, CAC staff completed five field trips to the region, meeting with stakeholders, assessing patterns of use, determining sub-regions, and working on solutions to the problem of data scarcity. Before we can move ahead on any of the recommendations, sustainable funding for programs in this region will have to be secured. • The North Rockies region encompasses 45,164 km—about the same size as the province of Nova Scotia. • Backcountry users in this region are almost exclusively mountain sledders, with the exception of small pockets of backcountry skiers around Prince George, Mackenzie, McBride and Tumbler Ridge. • Before the launch of the pilot project, the CAC delivered basic outreach programs in this region for the past two seasons.

Blair Lekstrom, MLA Peace River South, at the launch of the North Rockies Pilot Project in Dawson Creek, BC Image: Paul Wyke

Donating from the Heart Tumbler Ridge resident Jeff Cool built and donated a custom snowmobile trailer in memory of his close friend John Couture who died in an avalanche in 2010. The district of Tumbler Ridge donated a decommissioned truck from their fire department for our use. And in Grande Prairie, three dedicated backcountry snowmobilers calling themselves the North Rockies CAC Fundraising Committee raised $7,700 in an evening fundraiser. Norm Kobylanski, Ryan Shelley and Paul Wheeler have been working to help improve avalanche safety programs in their region for the past three years.

The Kakwa is a protected area that crosses the border between BC and Alberta, and one of the premium riding destinations in the North Rockies. Image: Peter Marshall

Image above: Jeff Cool poses on the trailer he donated. Carole Savage collection.


Special Projects

Avalanche Terrain Ratings The CAC is in the third year of a four-year project to map all of BC’s provincially managed snowmobile recreation areas using the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES). This mapping project is garnering international interest from alpine nations facing growing backcountry use.

Recreation Sites and Trails BC has benefited greatly from the depth of experience and enthusiasm of the CAC in pioneering this new methodology for evaluating avalanche hazards over large areas. Our successful partnership has resulted in providing vastly improved local information, increasing avalanche safety awareness and buyin among the snowmobile community, and reducing the overall number of avalanche fatalities related to snowmobiling in BC. Bill Marshall, Director, Recreation Sites & Trails Branch Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations

This three-point scale is used to classify terrain by its potential exposure to avalanches. Zoning the terrain as simple, challenging or complex helps users understand the nature of avalanche terrain and choose a trip with the appropriate level of exposure for the current conditions. This landmark project is funded by the Ministry of Natural Resource Operations Recreation Sites & Trails. Running from 2010-2014, approximately 90 managed snowmobile areas in the province will be mapped. The maps are then used in decision-making aids such as signs, brochures, and the Online Trip Planner that guide users on trip selection using the current danger rating and the Avaluator Trip Planner. All field surveys for the 90 snowmobile areas were completed this winter. 33 snowmobile areas now have trailhead signs with ATES maps. Trailhead signs with ATES maps were added at Kakwa, Tweedsmuir and Babine Mountains Provincial Parks this winter.


Financial Summary

Allocation of Expenses

Total CAC revenue in 2012-13 was $1,988,882, approximately 90% of which is derived from annually requested and approved grants, and sponsorships. Only 10% comes from secured, multi-year funding agreements. Expenses for the year were $1,915,209.82, leaving a surplus of $73,250.53. Seventy-five percent of this year’s surplus is slated for reinvestment in the CAC—to rebuild IT systems and purchase new equipment; employee training and development; youth education equipment; and equipment for field programs. The remaining surplus will be added to our reserves to provide emergency funding if an annual grant or sponsorship is not approved.

Operating Revenue by Source

Public Avalanche Warning Service BC Parks ATES Ratings Outreach Youth Programs Avalanche Skills Training Program Projects Support Services* Total

*Accounting, Communications, IT, Adminstration, etc.

Expenses by Category




Office & Overhead

Canadian Avalanche Foundation


BC Government

Board Expenses

Federal Government


Alberta Government


Retail Sales


Membership Dues

Project Expenses Total

Other Project Revenue Total




NOTE: All information is from the CAC's unaudited year-end financial report as of March 31, 2013.


2012-13 Avalanche Fatality Statistics

Remembering 2003

Canadian Fatal Avalanches Five people were killed in five avalanche accidents during the 2012–13 winter season.

All three unguided recreational fatalities occurred in the Columbia Mountains of British Columbia. Two occurred with a forecast danger rating of Considerable, while the forecast danger rating was High for the third. Two of the accidents are especially worth noting as they involved the improper use of avalanche safety equipment. In one, transceiver battery corrosion affected the search. In the other, the crotch strap of the victim’s airbag harness system was not fastened, which may have had an effect on the outcome. One encouraging marker worth noting is the steady decline in snowmobile fatalities, from a high of 19 in 2008–09 to a single fatality this winter. While there is no one reason for the low number of avalanche fatalities this season, our public avalanche safety programs have certainly played a role. In addition, the snowpack in many regions was relatively stable and predictable for much of the winter. There is reason to celebrate both successful public safety initiatives and sound decision-making by backcountry users.

Annual Avalanche Fatalities in Canada Showing 10 Year Moving Average 25






















That season sparked the formation of the CAC, which was incorporated in October of 2004 to serve as Canada’s national public avalanche safety organization.

The relatively low number of fatalities made this past winter remarkable, as this is the lowest number since 1984. Five fatalities is also well below the ten-year trailing average of 11.7 per year, an average that has been declining since 2008–09. Additionally, there were no accidents involving multiple fatalities this winter, which hasn’t happened since 2000. One mechanized skier (under the care of a professional decision-maker) and one workplace fatality means three unguided recreational deaths: one backcountry skier, one out-of-bounds skier, and one snowmobiler.


Ten years ago, the winter of 2002-03 proved a watershed for avalanche safety in Canada. Twenty-nine people were killed in avalanches that winter, including two separate incidents with seven fatalities each, one of which involved teenagers on a school outing. This winter, we had a number of opportunities to look back at those tragic events a decade ago, and mark the many advances that have been made in public avalanche safety over the past ten years.

Five Year Trailing Average of Backcountry Skier and Snowmobiler Fatalities 8

Putting it into Perspective Thoughts on Avalanche Fatality Statistics


Not everything that counts can be counted














Backcountry Skiing (self propelled) Snowmobiling

How do we measure the effectiveness of our public avalanche safety programs? While fatality trends may be an obvious metric, those numbers don’t tell the whole story because we have no way of knowing the total number of backcountry users. Without that data, we can’t know the true accident rate—the number of accidents in comparison with the number of users. We do know backcountry use is on the rise. The backcountry skiing market, once niche, is now attracting the attention and investment from major ski companies. Mountain snowmobiles are a growth product for manufacturers. And there is a noticeable increase in media coverage of backcountry activities, from broadcast media to specialty magazines to The New York Times.

















Backcountry use is becoming ‘normalized’ as more people venture into the winter wilderness. In light of this growth in users, the relatively stable trend in avalanche fatalities reflects positively on our efforts. Through awareness and education, we are encouraging respectful and responsible use of Canada’s magnificent winter mountain terrain.


Looking Forward

New Executive Director After a competition that attracted many talented applicants, Gilles Valade was named as the new Executive Director of the CAC in late April. Gilles holds an MBA from the University of Guelph, and has spent the past ten years as Chair of the Adventure Studies Department at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. He has a strong background in education, risk management, and fiscal planning. Gilles will be working closely with acting Executive Director Karl Klassen in the coming weeks as he prepares for taking over the ED position on August 1. “I look forward to working alongside the team and building on the great work that has been accomplished since the CAC was incorporated in 2004,” says Gilles.

New Financial Strategy

Almost 90% of the CAC’s annual revenue is based on an annual request and approval basis. While much of it is reasonably reliable the fact remains that this funding is not fully secure. The timing of revenue vs. expenses often creates a negative cash flow scenario. These factors create uncertainty and make long-term planning difficult. The CAC is working on strategies to address these issues. The plan is to create a reserve to cover unexpected funding loss and generate an operating reserve to smooth out cash flow cycles.

Youth Education and Outreach Since incorporation in 2004, the CAC’s main focus has been to build the Public Avalanche Warning Service. This program is now a global leader and we are justifiably proud of its accomplishments. As we approach the end of our first decade, we believe it’s time to shift more attention to awareness and education initiatives, especially for new users and youth. This means working with our partners to focus resources on youth education and outreach programs. By building awareness and increasing training opportunities we are investing in the future—providing nascent backcountry recreationists the tools to use our worldclass warning and decision-making products and services.

Observer Network We are developing online and mobile applications that will allow backcountry users to easily and effectively submit photographs, data, and observations to CAC forecasters and share that information with other users. This is a key component of providing more effective avalanche safety information to users in data-sparse areas where it’s not possible to produce traditional forecasts. Image: Al Safrata

CAC Board of Directors

CAC Staff

President Ross Cloutier

Acting Executive Director Karl Klassen

Vice-President Dan Markham

Public Avalanche Warning Service Manager Karl Klassen

Secretary/Treasurer Kevin Seel Directors Rob Elliot Scott Hicks John Irvine Jim McAllister Curtis Pawliuk Sandra Riches Christina Tutsch Lawrence White Kevin Williams

Public Avalanche Warning Service Forecast Coordinator Ilya Storm Communications Director Mary Clayton Sponsorship and Marketing Jennifer George Education and Membership Coordinator Nancy Geismar Public Avalanche Forecasters Mark Bender, Cam Campbell, James Floyer, Penny Goddard, Grant Helgeson, Joe Lammers, StĂŠphanie Lemieux, Peter Marshall, Matt Peter, Tom Riley, Shannon Werner Youth Education Coordinator Bridget Daughney Social Media Coordinator Karilyn Kempton Publications and Properties Brent Strand South Rockies Avalanche Field Technicians Gordon Ohm, Jen Coulter, Martina Halik Yukon Avalanche Field Technicians Eirik Sharp, Justin Abbiss, Scott Stewart Reception DeeDee Eresman


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

Image: Graham Helfrick

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