Canadian Avalanche Centre Annual Report 2013-14

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2013-14 Annual Report A Year of Collaboration


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

12 Public Avalanche Warning Service 18 Education 20 Communications and Outreach 26 Special Projects Mountain Snowmobile Education Project Avalanche Terrain Ratings

33 Financial Summary 34 2013-14 Avalanche Fatality Statistics 36 Looking Forward 37 Our People Board of Directors Staff

Image: Silas Patterson

Vision To eliminate avalanche fatalities and injuries in Canada.

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

Values • We are committed to awareness, training and safety for the general public and for all who travel in avalanche terrain. • We are an inclusive and diverse organization that provides services to all winter recreation activity participants. • We strive to ensure that all programs, services and materials are based on accurate research and evidence. • We engage in strategic relationships and alliances to further the reach of our programs and messages. • We investigate to understand all factors that contribute to human incidents in avalanche terrain and support that investigation by encouraging research. • We inspire people to safely enjoy recreation and travel in the winter backcountry environment. • We value our staff and community’s collective strength, energy and leadership. • We create a fun, healthy, professional and sustainable workplace, and provide our staff with opportunities to grow and thrive. • We anticipate and respond to challenges and changes with creativity, collaboration, courage and bold enthusiasm.


A Message from the President The Canadian Avalanche Centre in 2014 is very different from when the joint CAC/Canadian Avalanche Association Board of Directors decided to separate the organizations into distinct entities. The CAC has been able to focus on creating a vision and organization for the future. The CAC has had many successes over the last several years: we moved Public Avalanche Warning Service avalanche forecasters into a new, better building space; recruited a broad cross-section of board members who are highly motivated and collaborative professionals and managers; and identified Board shortand mid-term strategic goals. We hired a new Executive Director and a Chief Development Officer (in conjunction with the Canadian Avalanche Foundation); moved to a strategic re-organization that aligns the CAC much closer to the CAF, including cross-board appointments and joint management committees; and have moved the organization onto a more solid financial footing and substantially ramped up fundraising activities. We have also streamlined

many of the organization’s processes and its staffing model; developed new organization vision and mission statements; and engaged in a process intended to re-brand, re-position, and re-name the organization. Busy? Yes. Exciting? Yes. Focused? Very. As outgoing President, I am excited about the CAC’s opportunities and direction. The incoming board is strong, strategic, and professional; I know they will provide leadership as necessary. The CAC is focused on its next ten years, and great things will happen in that time. In addition to thanking the present board for their efforts and energy over the past couple of challenging years, I would particularly like to thank Karl Klassen and Gilles Valade for their leadership—Karl during our recent time of transition and Gilles for his current commitment. Things look good for the CAC!

Ross Cloutier, President

Image: Jonathan Reich

A Message from the Executive Director Hard to believe that my first winter as Executive Director is already behind me; I’m happy that I’m still standing! It has been a very busy nine months that didn’t fail to deliver the expected combination of steep learning curve, stress and excitement. I have been fortunate to step into a role where I am able to benefit from all the great work of my predecessors. I am blessed to be working with such an outstanding group of people and thankful for all their support and patience. As an organization the CAC continues to do great work. As proof of this, the CAC has been nominated twice for the Premier’s Innovation and Excellence Awards, the BC Public Service’s most prestigious recognition. Both nominations are in the category of partnership. One is shared with Emergency Management BC and the BC Coroners Service for our work together in public avalanche safety. The other is with Recreation Sites and Trails BC and GeoBC for our work together in mapping the avalanche terrain for all the province’s managed snowmobile areas. We are honoured and proud to be nominated for these awards. I would like to thank our volunteer board of directors who has been passionately engaged and supportive. I especially want to recognize and thank our outgoing president, Ross Cloutier, who led the reorganization and restructuring of the CAC and built the foundation for the next 10 years of success. As much as I like winter and shovelling, I am looking forward to summer and another exciting year.

Gilles Valade, Executive Director


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 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.

Presenting Sponsors

Become a Sponsor Today 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 Sponsors

Supporting Sponsors

Contributing Sponsors ABS Driving Force inReach Canada KADENZ Brand Communications Mountain Weather Services Savage Marketing

ISMA and its members (Arctic Cat, Bombardier Recreational Products, Polaris and Yamaha) are proud sponsors of the CAC. The CAC is an active partner in working with the snowmobile dealers and snowmobile riders—our customers. They are making the backcountry safer for all of us. We really appreciate all the work the CAC does. Ed Klim, President International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association

Teck and the CAC share a strong commitment to safety. We are proud to support the CAC’s efforts to develop new ways to increase awareness about safety in the backcountry. Their efforts truly make a difference and contribute towards our shared goal of ensuring that everyone goes home safe and healthy every day. Nic Milligan, Manager, Community and Aboriginal Affairs Teck Resources Limited

TECTERRA is proud to fund the development and launch of the CAC Observer Network. We believe that by giving recreationists the tools to share snow information and conditions with others we are helping them make more informed decisions. TECTERRA is committed to improving the quality of lives of Canadians through the use of innovative geospatial technology and we are proud to support the CAC Observer Network. Jonathan Neufeld, Director of Commercialization Programs TECTERRA

Big Red

A big thanks to Monashee Powder Snowcats for giving our Avalanche Field Team truck a new lease on life this year. The ten-year-old truck was generously donated by the district of Tumbler Ridge in 2012. The truck had a complete mechanical service, new tires, and a new canopy through Dunbar Automotive of Vernon. Working with Wholesafe Grafix of Vernon, MPS also contributed a wrap, which gives the truck a unique and identifiable new look. “We are tremendously grateful for the generosity and support of MPS,” said CAC Executive Director Gilles Valade. “Driving such a visible truck makes it easier to engage with backcountry users, an important facet of our field work. If any other company or agency would consider a similar initiative for our other field team in the South Rockies, we would certainly welcome the support.”


Our Community

Canadian Avalanche Foundation The Canadian Avalanche Foundation works closely with the CAC to fundraise for avalanche safety. Formed in 1999 to provide a tax-deductible fundraising mechanism for the support of public avalanche safety initiatives in Canada, the CAF remains a tremendous supporter of the CAC. Since 1999, they have provided over $1,600,000 in support of public avalanche safety, education and research.

The CAC and CAF are working together to set a firm financial foundation for avalanche safety. I’m pleased to welcome Dale Bayley to our team. Dale will coordinate fund development activities at the CAC and CAF, and I am excited about the potential now that he is on board. Gordon Ritchie CAF President

The CAF’s annual Calgary fundraiser is held in the beautiful CP Pavilion in the heart of the city. The silent auction shown here is always a big part of the event, with many supporters donating great prizes. Image: Jim Macdonald

CAC Donors The following are people and organizations who have donated to the CAC this year. Acquroff, Norman Alpine Club of Canada - Okanagan Sector Alpine Club of Canada - Vancouver Section Apex Ski Resort (Avalanche Awareness Days) BC Mountaineering Club Big Bend Skis Blouin, Paul Boost It Peformance Products Calgary Snowmobile Club Carmen, Doug & Donald Clarkson, John Coldsmoke Films Collie, Don Davies, Brian Daytona Homes Lethbridge Design Carpentry & Woodwork Dumont, Mark Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club Fernie Alpine Resort (Avalanche Awareness Days) Hoke, Marsh and Barb Prescott In memory of Wade Galloway Carol Patterson, Robert Pocsik and Anonymous Jansma, Leo Kamloops Snowmobile Association Kootenay Mountaineering Club Labonte, Marie-Helene Lukawy, Ken MacDonald, Alix MacDowell, David Nakiska Mountain Resort (Avalanche Awareness Days) Naroznik, Martin Next Rain Irrigation Ltd. and Todd Mansfield Palmer, Miles Pelter, Wayne Phillips, Dan Pinczewski, Liz and Sam Polyk, Darryl Pomeroy, Adam Resorts of the Canadian Rockies Richardson, Jock River City Pub & Mount Begbie Brewery Scarcelli, John Sparrow, Ron Strad Oilfield Rentals Ltd Sweatman, Mark Thomson, James Trevor in Rossland UBC Varsity Outdoor Club Valemount Area Recreation Development Association (Avalanche Awareness Days) Whistler Blackcomb and Arc'teryx Wright, Jonathan Zacs Tracs AST1 students

Dale Bayley Chief Development Officer

This year, the Canadian Avalanche Foundation and the CAC hired Dale Bayley as Chief Development Officer, to coordinate fundraising in support of public avalanche safety programs and services in Canada. Bayley has over 30 years of leadership experience in senior and executive roles, and has focused on fundraising for the past 17 years. “The CAC is a world-class organization positioned for meaningful growth that will make a difference in how we all love and respect the winter backcountry,� says Bayley.


Our Community

CAC Service Awards Each year at our annual conference, we present CAC Service Awards to individuals or organizations demonstrating a commitment to public avalanche safety in Canada. These were the 2013 winners. Randy Swenson strives to improve avalanche awareness in the mountain snowmobiling community. We appreciate his outstanding fundraising efforts as a member of Team Thunderstruck.

Wade Galloway celebrated avalanche awareness in the split-boarding community with Canuck SplitFest, an annual fundraiser he organized for the CAC.

In Memoriam: Wade Galloway 1976-2014 Sadly, Wade Galloway was killed in an avalanche in Waterton Lakes National Park on February 15, 2014. “Wade first approached the CAC in 2010, telling us that he was organizing an event and wanted permission to donate the proceeds to our organization,” said CAC Executive Director Gilles Valade. “Through his efforts and energy, the Canuck SplitFest has grown every year. This is a great loss and his enthusiasm and dedication will be missed.”

Cross-Border Collaborations Five Rules for Mountain Sledders Last year at the International Snowmobile Congress, the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA) requested common avalanche safety messaging for snowmobilers in Canada and the United States. Led by Public Avalanche Warning Service Manager Karl Klassen, we worked with the US Forest Service National Avalanche Center and ISMA to develop five key avalanche safety points. The result is already being used by educators, snowmobile manufactures and distributors, and in several publications. We hope that a common message in both countries will help improve avalanche awareness, and encourage riders to get avalanche training, check their regional avalanche forecast, and get good information before heading into avalanche terrain. Get the gear. Get the training. Get the forecast Get the picture. Get out of harm’s way.

Out-of-Bounds Strategy Skiers and boarders leaving resort boundaries are a growing user group of avalanche terrain. However, it’s not uncommon for these riders to be unprepared for the danger or even unaware of the risks they are taking. At the CAC, we are highly aware of this trend and recognize the pressing need to increase these users’ recognition of avalanche hazards. This winter, we began a new approach to reaching this group through the use of social marketing—essentially taking the best strategies from the advertising world and focusing on changing behaviours. Our early work in this area came to the attention of some American colleagues, who had already started working together on this issue. A unique collaboration has resulted. Working with the seven American organizations listed below, focus testing was conducted this winter on our target audience. With the findings of that research, we hope to develop an effective, creative and cross-border approach to roll out for next season. • • • • • • •

American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education Colorado Avalanche Information Center National Ski Areas Association National Ski Patrol Northwest Avalanche Center Snowsports Industries of America Utah Avalanche Center

InfoEx Producing public avalanche forecasts requires a reliable stream of high-quality data. Over the vast and remote mountainous regions of western Canada, obtaining that data can be a significant challenge. Since inception, the CAC’s forecasting program has relied on the professional information exchange known as InfoEx as our primary source of information. Administered by the Canadian Avalanche Association every winter since 1991, InfoEx is a subscription service for professional avalanche operations in Canada that allows a daily exchange of snow, weather, avalanche, and terrain observations. This season, supported by TECTERRA, the CAA launched a new InfoEx application with a customizable data entry system and a structured approach to the evaluation of avalanche hazard. The new InfoEx application produces advanced customizable tabular formats, allows data visualization on a geographical interface, and makes it possible to aggregate vast amounts of data using charts and graphs. These new and improved tools offer CAC forecasters better access to the information needed to produce effective and accurate public forecasts.

Image: Justin Abbiss

The InfoEx system and the subscribers from across western Canada who provide data on a daily basis play an integral role in public avalanche safety. The new InfoEx provides even more opportunities for us to continue offering the public high-quality information that helps them make informed decisions when travelling in the backcountry. 11

Public Avalanche Warning Servicea

CAC Mobile Observer Network Thanks to support from Mountain Equipment Co-op and TECTERRA, we launched the CAC Observer Network in January. Recreational backcountry users share photos, observations and locations using their smartphones, which can be viewed on a scrollable map or in a list filtered by date. The localized data also helps our Public Avalanche Warning Service forecasters, particularly in datasparse regions like the South Rockies, North Rockies, Bighorn and Klondike regions.

Avalanche Forecasting We are best known for public avalanche forecasting. We provide daily avalanche forecasts and weekly conditions summaries and outlooks to help winter backcountry users make informed decisions to better manage their avalanche risk.

Thank you for the informative writing pieces that you do on the CAC site, especially the Forecaster's Blog. It’s great writing that's easy to understand. Rich Hamilton, Revelstoke, BC

These avalanche safety products are designed to help all recreational users— whether they’re snowmobilers, skiers, boarders, snowshoers, or anyone recreating in avalanche terrain. Our 12 forecast regions cover much of the mountainous areas in western Canada, providing backcountry users with timely and guidance. Our website hosts forecasts from our partners at Parks Canada, Kananaskis Country, WhistlerBlackcomb, Vancouver Island and Quebec's Chic-Choc Mountains. This winter, we revised the boundaries for three of our regions—the South Columbia, Purcells and Kootenay Boundary—in order to better reflect the similar characteristics within each with respect to snow climate, terrain and recreational usage patterns.

1,865,255 Requests for public avalanche forecasts and reports, via and RSS feeds, between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014.

Newfoundland This winter, senior avalanche forecaster James Floyer visited Newfoundland to meet with stakeholders to create a five-year plan for avalanche services in Newfoundland with support from the CAC. These services will revolve around education and outreach targeted at snowmobilers, skiers and youth, and possibly the provision for a basic avalanche warning system. James met with representatives from Parks Canada, the Newfoundland Snowmobile Federation, Memorial University, the snowmobile community, the backcountry ski community, and ski patrollers. Our longtime collaborator Keith Nicol of Memorial University also promoted avalanche awareness through elementary and high school presentations, an AST course and an online avalanche activity report. The CAC has been supporting avalanche awareness in Newfoundland since 2006.

Québec This year, the CAC provided $15,000 to the Centre d’avalanche de la HauteGaspésie (CAHG) in support of their public avalanche safety programs and services. The CAHG is based in the Chic-Choc Mountains of Québec’s Gaspe Peninsula and produces a bilingual avalanche forecast every two days throughout the winter. A non-profit organization, its mission is to improve avalanche safety in Quebec through public education, professional training, avalanche bulletins and supporting research. Funds from the CAC support staff training and professional development, help to provide resources for AST instructors, and assist in translation costs for key documents used by the CAHG and the CAC. The CAHG was created in 1999 and has had a significant impact in improving backcountry safety in that province. Each year, some 10,000 backcountry travellers use the programs of the CAHG to plan their trips in the Chic Chocs, and the CAHG has been identified as an important component of the growing tourism market in that region.

The mountains of Quebec's Haute-Gaspesiie. Image: John Kelly

North Rockies 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 professional-quality data, the CAC is challenged to provide backcountry users with the advice they need. In 2012- 13, a pilot project was established in the area, with funding from the Government of BC, which committed $50,000 through Recreation Sites & Trails, and Apache Corporation, who donated $25,000 and two remote weather stations. In 2013 – 14, we again received $50,000 from the Government of BC but no other agency offered support. As a result, our activities in the region were curtailed. CAC forecasters made four trips to the region for a total of 31 days, giving safety talks to local schools and connecting with local riders. We focused on promoting our new observer network, which we believe has tremendous potential for data-sparse regions such as this. • The North Rockies region is 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. • We are working to develop creative solutions for this region, as alternatives to the daily forecasts provided in other parts of BC, Alberta and the Yukon, but require sustainable funding to make progress.


Public Avalanche Warning Service

CAC Field Programs Yukon The Yukon field team travelled throughout the Klondike region to collect weather, snowpack and avalanche observation data, and participated in community outreach and education. This season, we expanded our services to include standard avalanche bulletins with forecast danger ratings. The bulletins were published twice per week in the early season and three times per week in the spring. The team also published frequent blog posts which included YouTube video updates on snowpack and avalanche conditions. A focus for the season was to build capacity within the Yukon field team for better public messaging and bulletin writing. To achieve this, there were increased early season training opportunities, as well as ongoing mentorship by visiting forecasters from the PAWS office in Revelstoke. The Yukon field team has been made possible by SAR NIF grants which end this year. Working in collaboration with the Yukon Avalanche Association, the CAC is looking to secure long-term funding to ensure this project continues to deliver the quality public safety products Yukoners have come to rely upon.

We continue to receive strong support from all four snowmobile manufacturers. Thank you to Arctic Cat, BRP and Polaris for loaning mountain snowmobiles to our field teams. Yamaha provided goods for prizing and auctions. The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association also donated $10,000. Image: Raven Eye Photography

South Rockies The three-person South Rockies field team travels through the region on snowmobile and skis collecting weather, snowpack, and avalanche observation data. The information collected helps the CAC produce daily forecast for this region, spanning the BC - Alberta border. The South Rockies program makes outreach a top priority. The South Rockies blog was a great new tool for outreach as the field team pushed themselves to convey relevant info in a captivating, new (to them) format. In conjunction with visiting forecasters, the team hosted two successful Backcountry Avalanche Workshops in Fernie and Sparwood. Each month the team wrote avalanche safety articles for the Fernie Fix, a free local magazine. This season they hosted their first Avalanche Awareness Days with the Fernie Snowmobile Association at a backcountry cabin. The team also created two avalanche awareness safety briefings specifically for Teck to be shown at safety meetings. Most of all, the team enjoys the face-to-face conversations in the field, from parking lots to mountain tops. They are building relationships with local riders and skiers to facilitate the sharing of safety messaging, avalanche conditions and incidents. Teck is the Presenting Partner of the South Rockies Field Observer Program.


Public Avalanche Warning Servicea

Research One of the CAC’s mandates is to encourage and support research. We work closely with a number of researchers, both in Canada and internationally, to further our understanding of both the avalanche phenomena and the factors that influence decision making.

International Conferences The CAC is regularly invited to conferences around the world to share our work in public avalanche safety. This year, Public Avalanche Warning Service Manager Karl Klassen and Senior Forecaster Cam Campbell presented research at the 2013 International Snow Science Workshop in Grenoble, France. Karl spoke on “The Role of Avalanche Character in Public Avalanche Safety Products” and Cam presented “A Proposed Practical Model for Zoning with the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale.” Cam was also invited to address a working group, meeting in advance of the International Commission for Alpine Rescue’s conference in Croatia. Cam outlined the 10-year history of Canada’s Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale, which led to discussion on how this scale can be adopted or modified to the European countries. The interest in the issue led to Cam being invited to participate in the ICAR convention two days later.

The CAC’s Karl Klassen and Cam Campbell join other Canadian delegates at the International Snow Science Workshop 2013 in Grenoble, France. Image: Marc Piché

Avalanche Search Apps In October, 2013, after extensive research by Senior Forecaster Dr. James Floyer, the CAC issued a public warning about three European-made smartphone applications being marketed as an alternative for avalanche transceivers. Dr. Floyer’s research, made public at the same time as the warning, revealed a number of significant issues with the technology, notably a lack of compatibility with the international standard for avalanche transceivers, battery life, and signal attenuation. This incident revealed some of the best strengths of the CAC—the depth and breadth of knowledge in our staff, our responsiveness, and our ability to prioritize resources efficiently and effectively. The overwhelming positive reaction to this work— from international media, avalanche safety organizations around the world, and the wider community of backcountry users—highlights Canada's reputation as a leader in public avalanche safety.

…many thanks for the paper submitted. This is really important to know and to be spread as important information worldwide. Per-Olov Wikberg, National Coordinator Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, Mountain Safety Council

We have translated Dr. Floyer’s paper and it will soon be published in our journal, Neve & Valanghe. Igor Chiambretti, Technical Director AINEVA, Italian Interregional Association for Snow and Avalanches

A big thanks to our Canadian friends for pulling this together!

Snowpack Modelling The focus of this research is to develop a method of generating synthetic snow profiles using meteorological data. Dr. Michael Schirmer has taken up the project that was started by Dr. Sascha Bellaire, continuing to build on the Swiss model called SNOWPACK. Dr. Schirmer is with the University of Calagary’s Applied Snow and Avalanche Research Program, and is using weather forecasts to drive SNOWPACK and produce a snow profile for different regions. This winter we partnered with Northwest Avalanche Solutions and the Valemount and Area Recreation Development Association to establish weather telemetry stations that will help validate the model’s output in various snowpack climates. Once operational, these modeled snow profiles will help the CAC forecasting team to better visualize the snowpack, especially in data-sparse regions, ultimately improving our public safety programs.

Karl Birkeland, Director USDA Forest Service National Avalanche Center



Avalanche Skills Training Recognizing avalanche terrain, good travel techniques and rescue skills are essential knowledge for anyone using the backcountry in winter. The courses developed by the CAC teach these skills and are the national standard for recreational training. Avalanche Skills Training (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 is a one-day introduction or refresher for the latest rescue techniques. For the first time in many years, there was a drop in AST 1 participants. Many course providers pointed to the late start to the winter as a cause for lower student numbers. On the upside, there was a 23% increase in snowmobilespecific courses and a 18% increase in AST 2 courses. However, we are not pleased with the drop in enrolment for companion rescue skills and will be working on strategies to promote that course more next season.

AST 1 Course Participants

AST 2 Course Participants








100 09-10



Companion Rescue Course Participants 400 300 200 100 11-12







Presented by




Online Avalanche Course Now Available in French Our online avalanche course is a valuable resource for both novices and experienced backcountry users looking for a refresher. With help from the Centre d’avalanche de la Haute GaspÊsie, the French version of the course went live in January, providing a learning opportunity for non-English speakers. The seven-part course goes through avalanche formation, avalanche terrain, pre-trip planning, reducing risk in the field, rescue, avalanche indecent reporting, and resources to learn more. Interactive elements such as routefinding exercises and videos appeal to learners of all styles.

Students in an Avalanche Skills Training course discuss route selection during the field day. Image: Brent Strand collection

Learn more at training/online-course


Communications and Outreach

Delivering the Message Effective communications is integral to the work of the CAC and our methods for connecting with backcountry users, partners and stakeholders are always evolving. 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. Over the past winter season, the CAC gave over 300 interviews to a wide range of media outlets, including television, radio, newspapers, magazines and online news agencies. While most of these outlets are from western Canada, we also get requests from eastern Canada, the US and many European countries. Our forecast team currently includes French, German and Spanish speakers, allowing us to offer interviews in languages other than English. In addition to responding to interview requests, we often actively solicit media coverage with news releases and partnership initiatives. Harnessing the power of the media to reach a wider audience is central to our communications strategy. The CAC website is an excellent source of information but we know there are backcountry users who don’t frequent our site, or may be unaware our services exist. Using traditional and social media helps us to broaden our audience and expand the reach of our messages.

Special Public Avalanche Warnings On occasion, our forecasters determine the risk of an avalanche accident is elevated and we issue a special public avalanche warning (SPAW). A news release is pushed out to media outlets in the regions affected by the SPAW—which can be throughout western Canada, or more specific areas. Our forecasters are available and prepared for interviews, allowing us to broadcast our concerns widely.

Public Avalanche Warning Service Manager Karl Klassen gives a television interview after issuing a Special Public Avalanche Warning. Image: Mary Clayton

Our special warnings are aimed at people who don't have a lot of training or experience and who tend to go into the mountains without doing much in the way of planning, preparation, or risk management. For experienced recreationists who use the bulletins regularly as part of their avalanche safety process, the SPAW serves to highlight the current avalanche problem, warning all backcountry users that something unusual is going on and extra caution is recommended. 21

Communications and Outreach

Website Statistics Between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014, we had 296,546 unique visitors making 872,904 visits to, and 3,201,723 page views. Over the year, 246,806 visits came from mobile devices, close to the 2012-13 total. Apple products represented 189,397 of those mobile visits, with Android coming in second with 48,575 visits. Our smartphone application comes in both iOS and Android versions.

Social Media Facebook Social media continues to play a large role in the CAC’s communications strategy. The CAC’s fanbase on Facebook grew to 9,402 from 7,050 at the end of last season. Between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014, Facebook referred 37,400 visits to Facebook referred 81,611 visits to the Forecaster Blogs at—every new blog updates automatically posts to Facebook and Twitter.

Twitter Between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014, the CAC’s Twitter fanbase increased from 3,035 to 4,264. Twitter referred 2,868 visits to Twitter referred 4,355 visits to

Facebook canadianavalanchecentre anadianavalanchecentre

Twitter Vimeo @avalancheca ancheca CanadianAvalancheCentre

Forecaster Blog Blogs let forecasters to speak with their own voice on important subjects. We hope to engage users on a broader variety of topics, provide more specific and detailed information, and flesh out complex concepts—things that can’t be done in the avalanche forecasts. Blogs help users better understand the forecasts, are a teaching tool, and allow forecasters to engage with their audience on a more personal level. The blog site includes a six different blogs: the general forecaster blog, North Rockies, South Rockies, and Yukon blogs, the weekly Summaries and Outlooks, and Tech and Talk. The Forecaster Blog site received 162,050 visits from 102,092 visitors between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014. Fifty percent of those visits came from mobile devices.

Field Team Videos This winter, the South Rockies field team produced 16 video updates to complement their avalanche forecasts and add important visual elements. The videos were posted on the South Rockies blog, and YouTube. Their videos have received almost 19,000 views this season, with a video on wet slab avalanches from March 10 receiving nearly 5,000. The Yukon field team produced ten videos that were posted on the Yukon blog and YouTube ( The videos have been viewed more than 1,400 times. This photo from the South Rockies field team is a good illustration of snowpack instability. A layer within the snowpack has collapsed from the weight of field team member Stephanie Lemieux, creating shooting cracks across the surface. Image: Raven Eye Photography

Video is a good supplement to traditional forecasts and blogs. We are lucky to have field team technicians capable of shooting and editing video. We certainly hope to produce more if time and resources are available.


Communications and Outreach

Reaching Out

Meet the Forecasters

Outreach is a coordinated effort—we reach out to all user groups, ages and areas, and staff from our education, youth, PAWS and communications departments is involved. We continually look for new ways to reach backcountry recreationists. Avalanche Awareness Days

We held a two-hour “Meet the Forecaster” open house in January. Forecasters showed their weather models, how they collect data and how they integrate all the information to put out the daily avalanche bulletins. The event drew a good mix of international backcountry enthusiasts either visiting or living in Revelstoke for the season, and locals wanting to learn about how avalanche forecasts are created.

This winter, 32 communities in BC, Alberta, the Yukon, Quebec and Newfoundland held Avalanche Awareness Days events to promote winter backcountry education and safety. This year’s theme was youth mentorship. Activities included transceiver searches, snow profiles, CARDA dog demos, shovelling and probing demos, avalanche terrain identification and assessment, information booths, movies, speakers and much more. Presented by

Shreducation In February, the CAC hosted “Shreducation,” an evening avalanche awareness presentation targeting youth and out-of-bounds skiers. Around 150 people came out to the engaging and entertaining evening, hosted by ACMG guide and CAA Professional Member Marty Schaffer, owner of Capow! Canadian Powder Guiding, and CAC Avalanche Forecaster Grant Helgeson.

Shreducation was an exciting and entertaining evening in Revelstoke, reaching out to young adults with avalanche and backcountry safety messages. Image: Jordy Shepherd

n o i t a c u d e r sh

Backcountry Avalanche Workshops In the late fall, these workshops help backcountry users prepare for the winter season. This year, we held early-season Backcountry Avalanche Workshops on the North Shore and Vancouver Island to help backcountry users prepare for the winter season. Two-hours sessions are led by a CAC avalanche forecaster and local professionals. We reached 680 people over eight venues. • Vancouver • Squamish • Pemberton • Whistler • Nanaimo • Courtenay • Victoria In January, we also held Backcountry Avalanche Workshops in the North Rockies. Despite some cancellations due to weather, a CAC forecaster connected with close to 200 backcountry users.

Presented by


Communications and Outreach

Youth The CAC’s youth program expanded this winter by strengthening our existing partnerships and creating new ones.

Companion Rescue Skills Training for Youth On March 24, the CAC, in conjunction with Columbia Basin Trust and Fernie Alpine Resort, hosted a free one-day Companion Rescue Skills course for youth aged 10-18. Skiers, boarders and non-riders were all welcome to attend. Numerous students were on the waitlist and we hope to expand it to other communities next winter. Thanks to Columbia Basin Trust and Fernie Alpine Resort for the great community initiative.

Through a grant from the National Search and Rescue Secretariat’s New Initiatives Fund, the CAC delivered avalanche awareness programs to youth in new communities throughout BC. We reached over 2,500 students, and gave materials to over 200 schools. We are working to empower local snowmobile clubs and search and rescue organizations to continue the program into the future. In the Fernie area, CAC South Rockies field team member Jen Coulter and Megan Kelly delivered youth outreach programs to over 500 students in four communities thanks to support from the Columbia Basin Trust and Fernie Alpine Resort. The Columbia Basin Trust and Revelstoke Credit Union funded youth outreach programs in Revelstoke and Golden. We presented to all students from K-12. The Royal Bank of Canada Foundation funded youth outreach in Hinton, Edson, Grand Cache and Grand Prairie, AB, reaching around 1,000 students. The Alberta Snowmobile Association supported the CAC and Lori Zacaruck of Zac’s Tracs, who delivered the Safe Riders program to over 6,000 students in 21 communities in Alberta this season. The CAC delivered the Parks Canada Avi-Smart program in the Bow and Columbia Valleys, reaching 1,656 students from grades 7-10 from 15 schools in eight communities. Towns where youth programs have been running for several years notice a shift in youth culture and knowledge. The CAC Tool Box program continued to move around the western provinces. Thanks to generous donations from long-time supporter Backcountry Access, all analog transceivers were replaced with digital. Brian Kelley’s Sports helped equip the boxes with rulers and thermometers for the snow kits. We are excited to have Snowpulse avalanche airbag packs for next year, generously donated by the University of Calgary’s Applied Snow and Avalanche Research program.

Thanks for your help, and all the great CAC resources that my students and I make good use of! Boyd Hargitt, Teacher Pemberton Secondary

Behind the Lines For the second year, the CAF provided funding for the youth-focused Behind the Lines Facebook page through the Hugh and Helen Hincks Memorial Fund. The site has grown to nearly 900 fans. This year, Behind the Lines also joined Twitter. The goal is to help youth learn about the avalanche awareness and safety precautions that go into riding big lines. For the second year, we held an avalanche awareness video contest through Behind the Lines. Congratulations to Nick Hughes, Oliver Langhorst and the 5th West Vancouver Mountaineer Scouts, who each won an avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe

Facebook CAC.BehindtheLines

Twitter @behindbiglines

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 In March, we wrapped up our three-year Mountain Snowmobile Education Project, which was funded by the National Search and Rescue Secretariat and sponsored by Emergency Management BC. This year, the project allowed us to attend three snowmobile shows in Edmonton, Saskatoon and Vernon, BC. We also attended the BC Snowmobile Federation’s fall meeting, and the Association of BC Snowmobile Clubs’ AGM. We held or attended numerous field outreach events throughout BC and the south Rockies of Alberta. And for the second year in a row, we collaborated with the Alberta Snowmobile Association and the Sandman Hotel Group with billboards advertising avalanche safety on major westbound highways into BC. Other highlights include the production and release of the Throttle Decisions avalanche safety video series, officially launched in Edmonton during the Alberta Snowmobile Association snowmobile show. We also worked with Snow Goer Canada on the production and release of “Avalanche Realities,” a half-hour television program on avalanche awareness for mountain snowmobilers. Developing an in-depth understanding of the motivations, attitudes and preferences within the mountain snowmobiling community is necessary for continued development of specific avalanche safety material. The project is pleased to have been able to support Luke Robbins Strong-Cvetich of Simon Fraser University in his research; his paper titled “Mountain Snowmobilers and Avalanches: An Examination of Precautionary Behaviour” was released in December, 2013

Throttle Decisions Video Series In the fall, we released Throttle Decisions—a terrific video series aimed at mountain snowmobilers. Shot and produced by Revelstoke filmmaker Francois Desrosiers of FD Productions, Throttle Decisions has eight fast-paced chapters aimed at encouraging mountain sledders to become better trained in avalanche safety. The series tackles terrain, companion rescue, mountain weather, how to read the avalanche bulletin, and much more. Two other components were created for outreach events and to air in classrooms. We have already sent out 2,500 copies. The half-hour outreach component has been viewed more than 25,000 views on Vimeo. Watch or download them at channels/throttledecisions.

The DVDs from this project are available through the CAC office.

Image: Rob Alford


Special Projects

Mapping Success The CAC completed the fourth and final year of a project to map all of BC’s provincially managed snowmobile recreation areas using the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES). The three-point scale is used to classify terrain by its potential exposure to avalanches: simple, challenging or complex. Zoning terrain helps users understand the nature of avalanche terrain and choose a trip with the appropriate level of exposure for the current avalanche conditions. The project was funded by the Ministry of Natural Resource Operations Recreation Sites & Trails. Running from 2010 to 2014, 92 managed snowmobile areas in the province were mapped. The maps are then used in decision-making tools such as trailhead signs, brochures, and the CAC’s Online Trip Planner.

The four-year ATES project has come to a very successful conclusion. The Province's snowmobiling community has come to embrace avalanche safety awareness. Individual snowmobilers are now provided with information they need to understand avalanche risks and make informed decisions for travelling safely in the backcountry. The methodology and standards developed by the CAC during this innovative project have received international recognition and may lead to avalanche terrain being assessed in this manner in other alpine countries. Since the project began in 2010, there has been a noticeable reduction in avalancherelated snowmobile fatalities in BC. Building on this success, Recreation Sites and Trails BC is committed to expanding avalanche terrain assessments to the 40 backcountry ski areas managed in collaboration with local clubs. Bill Marshall, Director, Recreation Sites & Trails Branch Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations

VARDA Gives Back The Valemount Area Recreation Development Association (VARDA) is a long-time CAC supporter and early adopter of CAC initiatives. VARDA is a non-profit association, consisting of a range of local businesses and backcountry users that manages the recreational snowmobiling sector in the Valemount area. VARDA was the one of the first groups to have their snowmobiling terrain rated with the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale, helping their users make informed decisions. VARDA consistently demonstrates a commitment to public avalanche safety through awareness events, and creating some terrific avalanche safety videos that highlight current conditions. VARDA has also done more than their share over the years off raising money for the CAC’s programs and services.

Snowmobilers review terrain options on an ATES map at the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club cabin on Boulder Mountain. Image: Carole Savage

Under the leadership of General Manager Curtis Pawliuk, VARDA is a strong proponent of avalanche training and a valued partner. Thank you VARDA!


Special Projects Image: Rob Alford

Financial Summary

Allocation of Expenses

Total CAC revenue in 2013-14 was $1.987 million. Approximately 10% of our revenue comes from secured, multi-year funding agreements; the rest is raised though annual asks and grants as well donations and sponsorships. Expenses for the year were $1.825 million, leaving a surplus of $162,000. Of that, $125,000 is for projects that were not completed before March 31, commitments for the current fiscal year and for capital replacement (computers and office equipment). Of the remaining balance, $25,000 will be added to our reserve that would provide emergency funding in the event of the loss of one of our major funders; the rest will go to retained earnings.

Support Services*


Public Avalanche Warning Service


Projects 300,381 Youth Programs


Outreach 64,417 BC Parks ATES Ratings


Avalanche Skills Training Program




*Accounting, Communications, IT, Adminstration, Development, Website Rebuild-Rebrand.

Operating Revenue by Source

Expenses by Category

BC Government


Payroll 1,008,404

Project Revenue


Office & Overhead


Sponsorships 285,999

Project Expenses


Canadian Avalanche Foundation


Travel 93,200

Federal Government


Transfers 50,000

Retail Sales


Insurance 20,988

Alberta Government


Research 18,000

Other* 46,426 Donations 40,410 Membership Dues Total

Board Expenses Total

14,710 $1,825,215

1,706 $1,987,384

*Interest, Contributions, Recovered Costs, Amortization.

NOTE: All information is from the CAC's unaudited year-end financial report as of March 31, 2013. 33

2013-14 Avalanche Fatality Statistics

Canadian Fatal Avalanches As of April 21, 2014, 15 people were killed in 13 avalanche accidents during the winter season of 2013-14. From a statistical perspective, it was a “worse than average” winter in the sense that the number of fatalities is 25% above the ten-year trailing average of 12 fatalities per year and nearly 50% above the ten-year trailing median. The average number of fatalities has been steadily declining from a peak of 15.4 fatalities per year in 2002-2003. In terms of location, this was an unusual winter in that six of the fatalities (40%) occurred in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, all within national parks. The remainder happened in BC’s Columbia Mountains. All 15 fatalities were recreational, including one mechanized skier (under the care of a professional decision-maker), one outof-bounds snowboarder, four backcountry skiers, and five snowmobilers. Additionally, two visitors to the mountains died while snowshoeing and a father and his son were killed while tobogganing. Both of these accidents seem especially tragic because it appears all four victims were unaware that they were exposing themselves to avalanche risks. The snowpack across western Canada was quite poor this season with a number of persistent weak layers. In the second week of March, eight people were killed in six separate avalanche accidents—probably the worst cluster of avalanche fatalities in living memory. Although interpreting fatality data is challenging, it seems clear the CAC’s efforts to encourage respectful and responsible recreation in Canada’s winter mountains should remain focussed on the broad spectrum of people for whom avalanche risk is obviously inherent in their activity, while remaining mindful of helping people who are unaware of avalanches, or are only minimally exposed to avalanche risk.

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












Putting it into Perspective

Avalanche fatalities 2004 – 2014 by location

British Columbia


Alberta 10

Thoughts on Avalanche Fatality Statistics

Québec 2 Yukon 2 Nunavut 0 NWT 0

Not everything that counts can be counted

Newfoundland 1 National Parks Total

9 121

Avalanche fatalities 2004 – 2014 by activity

Backcountry Skiers


Snowmobilers 54 Mechanized Skiers Out-of-Bounds Skiers Other Recreation

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.

14 9 15

Non-Recreation 3 Total

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


Backcountry use is 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 Name, Same Purpose After many years of brand confusion with the Canadian Avalanche Association, the CAC board of Directors will be presenting a new name for members to vote on at the annual general meeting. The CAC will also be working on a new logo for the organization over the summer months, to be unveiled at our 10-year celebrations in the fall. With a new name and new look, we are looking forward to continuing our good work in public avalanche safety for many years to come.

Change to Year End This year will be the last year we hold our annual general meeting in May. Starting in 2014, we are shifting our year-end from March 31 to June 30. This will allow us to incorporate our entire operational year in our annual reports, rather than having our year end while we are still in forecasting season. Moving forward, we will be holding our annual general meetings in the fall.

New Website Our address will stay the same——but this summer we are building a new website. The old site has served its purpose over the years but, as with technology everywhere, it has many weaknesses that are simply not keeping up with the demands we place on it. Stay tuned for our new look and new functionalities ready for the winter of 2014 – 15.

Image: Jeff Scott

CAC Board of Directors

CAC Staff

President Ross Cloutier

Executive Director Gilles Valade

Vice-President Dan Markham

Public Avalanche Warning Service Manager Karl Klassen

Secretary/Treasurer Kevin Seel Directors Paul Chatterton John Irvine Jim McCallister Curtis Pawliuk Sandra Riches Christina Tutsch Jeremy Vandekerkhove Lawrence White Kevin Williams

Public Avalanche Warning Service Field Programs Manager Ilya Storm Communications Director Mary Clayton Sponsorship and Marketing Jennifer George Education and Membership Coordinator Nancy Geismar Public Avalanche Forecasters Mark Bender, Ryan Buhler, Cam Campbell, Buck Corrigan, James Floyer, Grant Helgeson, Joe Lammers, Stephanie Lemieux, Peter Marshall, Tom Riley, Eirik Sharp, Shannon Werner Youth Education Coordinator Bridget Daughney Social Media Coordinator Karilyn Kempton Publications and Properties Brent Strand Snowmobile Program Coordinator Carole Savage Comptroller Janis Borden Bookkeeper Julie Matteau South Rockies Avalanche Field Technicians Gordon Ohm, Jen Coulter, Martina Halik Yukon Avalanche Field Technicians Justin Abbiss, Matt Holmes, James Minifie Reception DeeDee Eresman


Image: Rob Alford

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

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