Red Arrow
Tuesday December 13th, 2011  
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Quote of the Week
"Being able to resolve this issue for our customers has been a top priority."
- Jennifer MacGowan  


The South Rockies Field Observer program, an initiative of the Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) in Revelstoke, B.C., will be collecting data from popular winter recreation areas in the Crowsnest Pass, Elk Valley and Flathead Valley this winter.
Through funding from a $15,000 donation from Teck and ongoing support from the Province of B.C., CAC
Avalanche Field Technician Gord Ohm an Assistant Avalanche Technician David Tracz, both Elk Valley residents, will collect information from high-use ski and sled areas of the South Rockies that don’t have commercial operations which report avalanche conditions to the CAC.
“The CAC’s field observation program in the South Rockies is maturing and growing – this year it’s a significantly stronger program thanks to the support of Teck,” said CAC Senior Public
Avalanche Forecaster Ilya Storm.
“We’ve grown from having a single observer working on a casual basis, to a collaboration with Dr. Bruce Jamieson’s University of Calgary research team, to this year’s program with two full-time professional technicians, each equipped with their own sled.”
Ohm and Tracz will collect avalanche occurrence, snowpack structure and weather data from various locations via overhead terrain assessments by helicopter and on location snow pit tests using sleds donated by Yamaha.
According to Storm, unlike areas such as the Lizard Range in Fernie which have professional avalanche safety operations providing up-to-date avalanche information for the Public Avalanche Forecast system through the industry’s InfoEx information exchange, there is a lack of professional level field observations in the Flathead, Elk Valley and Crowsnest Pass.

“Deploying a CAC team of avalanche technicians ensures the South Rockies Avalanche Forecast is based on timely, reliable and regular data,” said Storm.
He said it is important to increase monitoring of conditions in the area, as it is popular among recreationalists.
“The South Rockies is a popular area for winter mountain recreation, especially for the sledding community, and it’s a location with a tricky snowpack,” said Storm.
“We need reliable and timely information from the field to create public avalanche forecasts.”
The team will also serve as avalanche safety ambassadors, through events such as the series of Sled Head Think Tanks which were held in Crowsnest Pass and the Elk Valley last month.
“We’re all about enabling people to enjoy the mountains in winter in a responsible way,” said Storm.
“That means matching your choice of terrain and activity to the conditions of the day, which sounds easier than it is.”
The team began training in mid-November and has been fully operational since December 1st, and will continue to monitor conditions in the region until spring.
For South Rockies avalanche reports, visit
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