While there are many products available to help people survive avalanches such as oxygen rebreathers and air bags that help people to float above the debris, they are no substitute for the knowledge that allows backcountry users to avoid getting caught in slides.
To share some of that knowledge, the Canadian Avalanche Centre is once again teaming up with B.C. Parks, the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, Whistler Blackcomb and various community groups and sponsors to host 2010 Avalanche Awareness Days in the Sea to Sky corridor.
The goal of the event is to increase public knowledge, share expertise, practice techniques to test the avalanche hazard and to train with the equipment. There will be an emphasis this year on snowmobiles, says Aaron Donohue, the Whistler Area Park Ranger who is helping to organize the event, although the event should also be of interest to backcountry skiers and snowboarders, snowshoers and anyone who ventures into the backcountry during the winter months.
In 2008-09 there were 19 avalanche deaths in western Canada related to snowmobiles, accounting for 75 per cent of all backcountry avalanche fatalities.
Avalanche Awareness Days get underway on Friday, Jan. 8 with a presentation in Squamish at the Eagle Eye Theatre. The films include The Fine Line , an avalanche safety film, as well as presentations by Cam Campbell, South Coast avalanche forecaster with the Canadian Avalanche Centre and Jen McGuinness of the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association. The doors open at 7 p.m.
The event heads into the backcountry on Saturday and Sunday mornings, taking place outside the Red Heather warming hut on Diamond Head. Participants can join B.C. Parks Rangers digging pits to analyze the snowpack, as well as participate in avalanche transceiver practice. There will also be an information booth with avalanche safety resources, the latest avalanche innovations, and a trivia game. The event runs from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
Conservation Officers and community volunteers will also be hosting avalanche safety awareness booths for snowmobilers at Cat Lake and Rutherford Forest Service Roads, as well as avalanche beacon search areas for practice.
In Whistler, there will also be an avalanche rescue dog information booth at the base of the mountain on Saturday at 10:30 a.m., as well as on-mountain demonstrations as part of the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge.