Fernie Alpine Resort held their annual Avalanche Awareness Day, where handlers gave live demonstrations with their avalanche rescue dogs. Alexandra Heck/The Free Press

Avalanche Safety at FAR

Locals experienced a day of happy rescue dogs, and shooting T-shirts out of the avolauncher at Fernie Alpine Resort.

While it was all fun and games, the staff at the resort took the day to teach those on the hill about one of the most serious dangers of skiing in the Rockies; Avalanches.

Avalanche Canada is rating the danger level for the Lizard Range and the Flathead Region considerable, at a level three.

A bout of rain a few weeks earlier created a slab on the mountain, where lighter, fluffier snow sits on top tends to slide. An avalanche earlier in January claimed the life of a Calgary man backcountry skiing on the Lizard Mountain Range.

“It just helps the public gain some basic knowledge about what tools they need before heading into the back country,” said Jeni Pearson, events coordinator at the resort. “It also gives the public a sense of what we do here to keep them safe.”

The resort has an extensive snow safety program, which consists of avalanche dogs and handlers, as well as machinery to launch explosives into the mountainside.

A few metres away, a crew of ski patrol staff launches t-shirts into a crowd of children.

They were using the avalauncher, a machine that they use to shoot explosives into the side of a mountain in order to blast unstable snow off the side of the mountain in a controlled manner.

“It’s all about awareness,” said Caira. “Read the public bulletins, plan, take an avalanche skills training course if you haven’t already, and go with people that know.” Both were on display at the base of the resort, giving demonstrations.

Sean Caira is a Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association (CARDA) avalanche dog handler with Fernie Alpine Resort Ski Patrol.

He and his dog are on the hill three days a week, and on the off days, are prepared to serve the public in the South Rockies.

“We hope to never get called in the winter, but it happens,” said Caira. His dog, who took two years to train, sniffs out people who may be trapped under the snow after an avalanche.

“In our area, this winter already we’ve probably had five or six call-outs,” he said.

Rescue dogs are particularly useful to locate someone is not wearing a transceiver.

He says the season has been more active for avalanches than usual, due to the snowpack in the mountains.

“We had a lot of rain in November and it created a rain crust at the bottom,” he said. “We’ve had big results [events] around the ski area, but they’ve all been in closed terrain.”

Staff have been operating with heightened caution over the season to keep avalanches from occurring at the hill.

“It’s an unusual problem we have and difficult to manage,” he said.

Just Posted

Documentary reveals Fernie’s role in WWI internment operations

That Never Happened to screen on 100th anniversary of Morrissey internment camp closure

Environmental monitoring meeting in Elkford tonight

Meeting to focus on environmental monitoring programs at Teck coal mines in the Elk Valley

VIDEO: This is what buying legal pot in B.C. looks like

Take a look inside B.C.’s first and only legal pot shop located in Kamloops

Elkford councillor Joe Zarowny remembered

The District of Elkford today announced the passing of long time councillor,… Continue reading

‘Police are ready’ for legal pot, say Canadian chiefs

But Canadians won’t see major policing changes as pot becomes legal

Mellow opening to B.C.’s only legal pot shop

About five people lined up early for the opening of the BC Cannabis Store in Kamloops.

Meet the City of Fernie candidates

Voters in Fernie will vote for one Mayor, six Councillors and one School Board Trustee on October 20

Meet the District of Sparwood candidates

Voters in Sparwood will vote for one Mayor and six Councillors on October 20

Meet the District of Elkford candidates

The Elkford Chamber of Commerce will host an All Candidates Forum on October 4

Jagmeet Singh says marijuana pardons are not enough

Trudeau government will streamline pardon process for Canadians convicted of simple possession of marijuana in the past

BC Ferries begins taking debit in two-month pilot project

Company is giving customers option to use Interac on two-month trial on select vessels

Caregivers banned from smoking, growing cannabis around children-in-care: MCFD

Ministry has limited cannabis use for caregivers, stating it may “pose a risk to children and youth.”

Cheaper strains sell out within minutes on online BC Cannabis Store

Province says new strains will become available in the coming months

Only 40% of B.C. car dealerships have electric cars available: report

Researchers found buyers frustrated at the lack of options

Most Read