Tuesday, January 25, 2011  
   Volume 81 - Issue 4 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
“You might leave on your adventure at plus 5, but temperatures change, and you could be looking at minus 20 by the end of the day.”
- Jeff Smith  
- CNP Rescue   
   
 
Approximately 40 local sledders attended the “Know the Snow” avalanche safety forum, put on by The Crow Snow Riders and Teck Coal, on January 15th at the Lions Pride Hall in Blairmore.
The “sledhead think tank” was developed by Teck in order to address the needs of local backcountry sledding communities, while working toward the shared goal of zero avalanche fatalities.
Blairmore was the fourth and final stop for the initiative, after similar talks were held in Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford earlier that week.
The information was all too timely, as earlier that day, seven skiers were swept away in a Size 2 avalanche at Fernie Alpine Resort.
Ilya Storm of the Canadian Avalanche Centre in Revelstoke, who was part of the rescue team which responded to the avalanche in Fernie, started things off by informing those present of the measures the CAC takes in educating recreational mountain goers in avalanche prevention and awareness.
“Going out in the mountains is what we do as Canadians,” said Storm, making it clear that the CAC does not discourage backcountry recreation. “We know that no one is going to stick to the flats... we just want to try to help people come back.”
At the beginning of the evening, Teck employees handed out information on appropriate gear which sledders should have at all times, how to go about locating someone who has been buried in an avalanche, the North American Avalanche Danger Scale, and Avaluator avalanche accident prevention cards.
“The more you know, the more you can do,” said Storm. “If you don’t know much about the mountains, you should take a more conservative approach.”
Storm said that while it is a large part of avalanche safety, forecasting does not solve every problem.
“It’s a bit of art, a bit of science, a bit of luck, and a lot of figuring out your own risk tolerance,” he said. “Give yourself margin for error. Most people get into trouble when conditions are iffy – that’s where the real challenge lies.”
In addition to working for the CAC’s public forecasting office, Storm teaches avalanche courses to ski patrollers and highway workers, and is also a heli ski guide, and rescue technician.
Following Storm’s presentation, Crowsnest Pass Rescue Chief Michael Taje talked about some of the best options for beacons/GPS locators, and gave away a couple of the units.
 
To end the evening, snowmobile athlete and avalanche survivor Jeremy Hanke gave a personal account of what it is like to be hit by a Size 3 avalanche and survive.
Pass Powderkeg
Kimberley Massey photo
Hanke said he has since spent a lot of time and money becoming involved in avalanche education, in order to raise awareness among other snowmobilers about avalanche risks and how to manage them.
“I think there is a lack of base knowledge in our community,” said Hanke.
Storm, Hanke, and Taje all stressed the importance of having three fundamental pieces of equipment whenever you venture into the backcountry: a beacon, an avalanche probe, and a shovel.
“These are things than can and do save lives,” said Storm.
According to Jeff Smith of Crowsnest Pass Rescue, the chance of surviving an avalanche decreases significantly after being buried for 15 minutes, and these three items are crucial in increasing your chances of being found.
In addition to the Fernie avalanche on January 15th, two men were killed in an avalanche in the B.C. Kootenays that same day, and on Sunday, January 9th, an avalanche also took place a few kilometres south of Castle Mountain Resort on Middle Kootenay Pass Trail.
The Size 3 avalanche was triggered by two skiers, covering two snowmobile trails and knocking out several nearby pine trees.
The slide was approximately 250 metres wide, one metre thick, and consisted of a thick, hard wind slab sitting on a hard rain crust, according to Smith.
For more information on the Canadian Avalanche Centre, the North American Avalanche Danger Scale, and avalanches in general, visit www.avalanche.ca.
To learn more about participating in an avalanche skills training course, visit www.zacstracs.com.
Teck developed this program, in partnership with the CAC, Ghostrider Motorsports, SnoRiders Magazine, and AST training providers Zac’s Tracs and College of the Rockies, to address the needs of the local backcountry sledding communities.
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   Volume 81 - Issue 4 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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