Avalanche Canada Foundation
Our Story Why We Exist
Avalanches are our country's most deadly natural hazard, killing an average of 12 people each year and taking more lives than all other natural hazards combined. Avalanche Canada's purpose is to prevent avalanche accidents. Our approach to prevention is through empowering backcountry users, including residents, visitors, adults, youth and new Canadians, with world-leading educational programs, innovative decision-making tools and accurate, timely avalanche forecasts.
Here in western Canada we are privileged to have some of the world's finest opportunities for winter backcountry adventure; free use of this spectacular wilderness is part of our culture and our heritage. But with this right comes a responsibility to respect the mountains and their inherent risks. Through training, research and effective risk communication, Avalanche Canada is leading the way in this exciting field.
Our Impact What We Do
We are a non-government, not-for-profit organization dedicated to public avalanche safety. We provide a safety net of programs and services to help backcountry users to make good decisions while travelling in avalanche terrain. We provide daily public avalanche forecasts for western Canada and we develop and coordinate public avalanche safety education, including awareness and training seminarstargeted for a diverse demographic that includes youth, adults, residents, visitors and new Canadians.
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.
Vision: To eliminate avalanche fatalities and injuries in Canada.
- 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.
Annual Report Highlights - 2016
With 8550 students, this year was our most successful year ever in terms of student participation. Once again the AST 1 course is the most subscribed with over 7400 students, an 18% increase over last year. Traditionally, the AST 2 course come in around 10% of the AST 1 numbers and this proved true again with 780 students taking AST 2, an increatse of 16% over last year.
Social Media is an essential tool for sharing information about avalanche safety. We had a youth-focused Instagram account where we ran a photo contest for backcountry users under 25, showing images of avalanche awareness, training and backcountry planning. Winners received a shovel, probe and transceiver from Backcountry Access.
We participate in a number of conferences each year in support of public avalanche safety. This year, we had the opportunity to share our work and collaborate with other agencies and here is one example in Killarney, Ireland. In October of 2015, Public Warning Service Manager Karl Klassen attended this annual conference, where he represented Canada on a prevention working group with the Internation Commission for Alpine Rescue (ICAR). ICAR has 87 member organizations from 35 countries and is the world's leading agency on mountain rescue.
Did You Know?
Cameron Westhead, MLA for Banff-Cochrane, announced a renewed three-year provincial funding agreement for Avalanche Canada. Alberta will provide the national public avalanche safety organization with $250,000 annually until 2020. Over the past decade, half of all avalanche fatalities in Canada were residents of Alberta. And of all snowmobilers killed in avalanches, about two-thirds were from Alberta. The Government of Alberta has funded and supported Avalanche Canada since 2005. “Avalanches are a natural part of the winter mountain environment but they are also the deadliest natural hazard in Canada,” said Gilles Valade, Executive Director of Avalanche Canada. “By providing backcountry users with science-based and effective resources, we are working together to prevent tragedy.”
- Each year in Canada, about 8,000 people take an avalanche safety training taught by instructors licensed by Avalanche Canada.
“As providers of Avalanche Skills Training developed through Avalanche Canada, we are thankful for continued financial support for this important organization,” said Len Youden, General Manager of Yamnuska Mountain Adventures, in a news release. “This money will support regional forecasting tools and education and help keep people safe.” See announcement at: Alberta Announces Renewed Three-Year Funding for Public Avalanche Safety
Our Programs How We Do It
Our programs are internationally recognized and used as benchmarks by other alpine countries. Our most visible product is the daily avalanche forecast, delivered free to the public through our website at avalanche.ca and our mobile app. Our 12 avalanche forecast regions in BC, Alberta and the Yukon, cover close to 250,000 sq km of mountainous terrain. In term of geography, Avalanche Canada is by far the largest avalanche forecasting program in the world.
Our forecasting programs also include:
- Regular blogs throughout the season, with videos, images and more in-depth analysis on snowpack conditions.
- Field teams in the South Rockies and the Yukon, gathering data for their regional forecasts. Based in Fernie and Whitehorse respectively, these avalanche technicians also do important outreach with their local communities.
- The Mountain Information Network incorporates our app and our web presence and allows users to share their own information and observations, which are then geo-tagged to a map on our main page at avalanche.ca
- The Mountain Weather Forecast provides users with the best publically available synopsis and analysis of western Canada’s weather.
Avalanche Canada has also developed a number of specialized services that complement the forecasting programs by providing users with comprehensive educational tools. This includes:
- Online programs, including an avalanche tutorial and our trip planner
- Avalanche Canada Training courses that provide a standardized curriculm for recreational avalanche training. Some 8000 people take these courses annually
- Outreach events including Backcountry Avalanche Workshops and Avalanche Awareness Days. Communities across Canada participate in these events.
- Youth Education - direct delivery of avalanche education to students K-12. We also serve as a curriculum hub for all youth-avalanche related programs.
The community benefit of our Public Outreach and Awareness Programs is clear. By building awareness and encouraging education, our outreach programs help backcountry users become informed users of our avalanche forecasts, arming them with the best information possible to make good decisions in avalanche terrain.
Our Requests What You Can Do
Our programs and services are provided for free but they are the result of significant investment; i.e., it costs more than $500,000 annually to deliver the daily public avalanche forecast. If you, or someone you care about, use any of these services, please consider making a $100 donation to the Avalanche Canada Foundation today. You will receive a tax receipt and your generousity will help to ensure that Avalanche Canada can continue to innovate and inspire.
Project Partnerships: Know Before You Go
"Know Before You Go" is a terrific new avalanche safety video and instructor resource, aimed at high school students. Led by our friends at the Utah Avalance Center, the video pulls in voices and education from across western North America. The project also included an excellent PowerPoint slide show to help instructors deliver the lessons. This was a great collaborative effort and we welcome the opportunity to help create standardized messaging across borders. This video can be seen under our youth programs.
In the fall of 2014, we launched a new website, with a map of western Canada serving as our home page. You can compare at a glance the danger ratings of all our regions, and clicking on a region will bring up the complete avalanche forecast. This map forms the foundation for your backcountry planning. Our new Mountain Information Network gives you the ability to submit your own information and observations from your backcountry trips. These submissions—from either your smartphone or your home computer—will be geo-tagged and will appear on our central map, so our whole community of backcountry users can share information and help each other make good decisions.
We are excited about our terrific new products for backcountry users, developed with the aim of giving you the best tools for travelling in avalanche terrain. From evening seminars to a four-day field-based Avalanche Skills Training 2 course, we have programs for every step of your education. Winter backcountry travel is a life-long learning process and Avalanche Canada is focused on supporting you on every step of this journey. But we need your help to keep our programs going.
At Avalanche Canada, we’re immensely proud of the work we do and we hope you are too. Together let’s make every winter backcountry trip a safe one. Your support is appreciated!