People urged to check avalanche forecasts

An avalanche expert says the deaths of eight people this month in the mountains of British Columbia and Alberta is especially heartbreaking because there is so much information available warning of the danger.

An avalanche expert says the deaths of eight people this month in the mountains of British Columbia and Alberta is especially heartbreaking because there is so much information available warning of the danger.

The people who have died since March 8 range from snowmobilers, backcountry skiers, hikers and snowshoers to a father and son who were buried while tobogganing within sight of the Chateau Lake Louise luxury hotel.

“It is frustrating when a significant number of people die in avalanches,” Ilya Storm, a spokesman for the Canadian Avalanche Centre, said Monday.

“In at least two of these accidents the people probably were not aware of avalanches at all — and that is a huge challenge for us. We are looking for ways to be able to extend the reach of our public safety initiatives.”

The centre in Revelstoke, B.C., posts detailed daily avalanche forecasts during the winter on the Internet (www.avalanche.ca/cac) and offers information about training courses and safety equipment.

But much of the information is aimed at people with some knowledge of backcountry perils.

Two people who died snowshoeing March 8 were tourists from Spain visiting Banff National Park. The two tobogganers who were last seen alive March 9 were visiting from Montreal.

Storm said the non-profit centre faces the challenge of putting information out to two very different groups.

Along with forecasts, the centre offers avalanche awareness programs for people who live in or frequent the mountains, including safety courses aimed at backcountry enthusiasts and young people in schools.

It’s a different story for tourists or people with less experience in the mountains.

There are avalanche warning signs and information kiosks in some areas. There is an avalanche app available for smartphones. Some hotels carry avalanche forecast information and broadcast it into guest rooms on internal TV channels.

But there’s no guarantee that people will read the information or heed the warnings.

“There is still a lot of work to do to get some people to do the equivalent of hopping in the car and putting on a seatbelt,” Storm said.

So far this winter, 13 people have died in avalanches in B.C. and Alberta. That’s up from six deaths last year. The 10-year average is 12 fatalities.

About 90 per cent of avalanches are triggered by people.

Storm said conditions in the mountain snowpack this season have been troublesome, with deep snow making it difficult to locate weak layers associated with snowslides.

The threat has moderated a bit from earlier this month, but conditions can change daily. And despite the calendar, there is still plenty of winter ahead in the mountains.

“This year and especially this last week, conditions have been extraordinarily challenging and dynamic with a high degree of uncertainty,” Storm said.

“We have a good month to six weeks of avalanche season in front of us.”

Just Posted

The best caesar in Canada can be found in Sylvan Lake

Kjeryn Dakin’s Tragically Hips caesar won the national Best Caesar in Town competition

Family says five found dead after Alberta fire were couple and their grandkids

ROCHFORT BRIDGE, Alta. — The family of five people whose bodies were… Continue reading

Rescue dogs come to Canada in search of forever families

There were dozens of dogs in the back of the van travelling… Continue reading

WATCH: Parkland Garden Centre hosts weekly Craft and Market Sale

A weekly event hosted by the Parkland Nurseries Garden Centre gives Red… Continue reading

WATCH: CP Holiday Train supports Lacombe Food Bank

Madeline Merlo and JUNO Award nominee Scott Helman both performed

Your community calendar

Friday The Annual Old-Fashioned Country Christmas is being held Dec. 13 at… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault heads to Hollywood to talk carbon and business

LOS ANGELES — After a tumultous legislature session, Quebec Premier Francois Legault… Continue reading

Conservatives urge Morneau to deliver ‘urgent’ fall economic update

OTTAWA — The Conservatives are calling on Finance Minister Bill Morneau to… Continue reading

Flames edge Kings 4-3 to remain unbeaten under interim head coach Geoff Ward

CALGARY — From his contributions on the scoresheet to his role in… Continue reading

Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world in the coming week

TORONTO — Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world… Continue reading

Google taps into Montreal’s rich gaming industry for first-party Stadia content

Sebastien Puel has seen Montreal evolve into a game development powerhouse over… Continue reading

Man dead after lengthy standoff with RCMP at home northeast of Calgary

COCHRANE, Alta. — A man in Alberta has died after an officer… Continue reading

Turkey trouble: Quebec village looks to dump wild bird running afoul in town

MONTREAL — In the small Quebec town of St-Prosper-de-Champlain — population 552… Continue reading

Most Read