Edmonton - The British Columbia-based Canadian Avalanche Centre has released a new video series for snowmobilers that highlights the need for safety education.
With messages from trained riders, the series guides viewers through eight short chapters that loosely follow the curriculum of a two-day avalanche skills training course. Each lesson touches on essential points, with a strong message that training is essential before heading into potentially dangerous terrain.
According to the Canadian Avalanche Centre, at least 766 people have died in avalanches in Canada since 1782. While accidents in the past primarily happened to people living in, working in, or driving through avalanche country, the majority of today's mishaps occur during recreational outings.
Throttle Decisions: Outreach Component from Canadian Avalanche Centre on Vimeo.
Since 1970, 445 people have lost their lives in 295 avalanches across Canada, with 90 per cent of the fatalities involving recreational users. There have been 21 avalanche-related fatalities in Alberta since 2002, the last two on Jan. 15, 2011, when two backcountry skiers were buried by cascading snow at Burstall Pass in the Kananaskis Country about 100 kilometres southwest of Calgary. There were four fatalities in British Columbia in 2013, including one snowmobiler and three skiers.
Called Throttle Decisions, the video series was produced in conjunction with the Alberta Snowmobile Association and features spectacular footage shot in some of Western Canada's best mountain riding areas.
"Ultimately the goal is to get viewers to take an avalanche skills training course," said Chris Brookes, director of the Alberta Snowmobile Association. "People have powerful machines these days that allow them to access areas they couldn't reach 20 years ago.
"Because of that, we feel it is incumbent upon us to get the message out. We think this is something all sledders need to think about it before heading into the backcountry."
While the series is directed at snowmobilers, Brookes said it is useful to anyone visiting mountain wilderness areas, including off-trail skiers, snowmobilers, ice climbers and snowshoers.
Data collected by the avalanche centre says the profile of a typical victim is a male backcountry skier in his mid-20s, with the incident occurring on a clear day with little or snow fall and light or calm winds. Poor trip preparation and a lack of knowledge of recognizing avalanche terrain is cited among the primary cause of death.
The video series is offered for free to snowmobile clubs and instructors and can be obtained by the general public for a suggested donation of $10. Videos are available from the Canadian Avalanche Centre at (250) 837-2141. The centre's website can be found at http://www.avalanche.ca/cac/.