NEWS

Canadian Avalanche Centre gets new name, funding

10/02/2014 10:31 EDT | Updated 12/02/2014 05:59 EST
The Canadian Avalanche Centre now has a new name, new logo and new funding.

Gilles Valade leads the non-profit organization known for forecasting, which will now be known as Avalanche Canada.

He says there was a good reason for the change.

"We were showing a logo with the Canadian Avalanche Association and the Canadian Avalanche Foundation even though we were … separate organizations," he said.

The group will retain the same website — avalanche.ca — and programs offered in the past.

It will also have more resources this year. The Alberta government is boosting its annual support from $100,000 to $250,000.

British Columbia will also support Avalanche Canada with $450,000 this year.

It follows an especially bad winter in the mountains when 15 people were killed in 13 avalanches — the deadliest season in the last five years. Out of those deaths, six of the fatalities were in Alberta's Rocky Mountains.

The group says the funds will help improve the public safety bulletins.

Avalanche Canada is already starting to caution backcountry users as snow begins to accumulate in the mountains.

Banff snow workshop

Parks Canada says it is also working to get snow information out in a more timely manner.

It is one of several groups meeting at the International Snow Science Workshop (ISSW) in Banff. They are going on tours of avalanche-prone territory and sharing ideas on snow safety.

There are 53 places where avalanches can affect the highways in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks.

"We have a large staff here — 10 people just in our park who spend their full time in winter monitoring snow pack, weather," said ISSW chair Grant Statham, who is also a mountain risk specialist with Parks Canada. 

"Every day we monitor the weather, we track the layers in the snow pack very carefully. We're routinely using explosives for avalanche control and we do rescue for people and so there's a lot to that kind of program in the winter." 

Lisa Paulson, a visitor safety specialist with Parks Canada, says they want to make weather information available after the avalanche forecast has been issued.

"We're always looking at ways to better arm our public the people that come to recreate in the park with information so that they can make more informed decisions … and keep themselves safe while they enjoy our parks," she said.

The conference has been going on every two years since 2008. This year's conference boasts 275 delegates from around the world, including New Zealand, Japan and Europe. 

"You hear so many people coming from all these different sectors and it just gets you really firing on ideas and things that you can bring to improve the systems that we use and how we can further tweak what we do," said Paulson.

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