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Avalanche Centre revs up snowmobile safety

Series of eight web videos mirror an avalanche safety course

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The Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) is hoping to raise avalanche safety awareness with a series of eye-catching videos targeted at the snowmobiling community.

Released last month, Throttle Decisions is a series of eight web videos covering topics like gear, weather, snowpack, terrain and rescue that are designed to mirror an actual two-day avalanche safety training course. But more than just educational, the videos feature high-octane alpine action by experienced riders shot in some of the West Coast's best snowmobiling areas.

"The videos are very exciting with lots of great footage and great riding. They're part entertainment with a great educational message in there, so they weren't made to be boring," said Gilles Valade, executive director of the CAC. "There's action but there's also people telling stories from their incidents and how not to end up in the same situation."

The series isn't meant to replace avalanche safety training, but rather gives riders a sense of what to expect from a CAC course. It was released on web-based video sharing platform Vimeo so it can be easily shared through social media, Valade added.

It's all part of the Canadian Avalanche Centre's concluding three-year mountain snowmobile safety project, which has played a role in increasing awareness of the importance of snowmobile safety in Canada following a pair of fatal avalanches in Sparwood and Revelstoke that left a number of snowmobilers dead, Valade said.

"That was a wake-up call for the snowmobiling community and also the Avalanche Centre to step up the snowmobiling side of our activities," he said. "The community really stepped up and have embraced more of a safety culture. At the CAC it's also changed where we have lots of snowmobile initiatives underway and lots of education and awareness initiatives."

The proof of a shifting culture among the country's snowmobilers is reflected in the number of snowmobiling-related deaths in 2012, Valade said, at just one. He said the CAC has noted a rise in the number of safety courses offered around the country targeting snowmobile users, as well as more riders acquiring the necessary avalanche safety equipment.

"It's a lot rarer to go to a parking lot and see snowmobilers going out without avalanche equipment, like your transceiver, shovel and probe," said Valade. "We even hear of snowmobilers not wanting to ride with other snowmobilers who don't have the equipment or training.

"Our message is to get the training, get the equipment and get the forecast, and that's all part of the safety system."

The video series can be viewed at www.vimeo.com/channels/throttledecisions. Visit www.avalanche.ca for more information or to register for a CAC course.

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