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

Sushi, sake and silk kimono

“The Kimono of Ichimaru” opening night at Fernie Museum attracts sellout crowd

Mexico-bound Tour Divide riders complete first day, pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

Convicted B.C. child abductor Randall Hopley back in custody, 6 months since release

Correctional Services Canada could not provide further details due to privacy concerns

New society to spearhead ramp building project in Fernie

Gracie Lou Foundation launches to make Fernie more inclusive; ramp building event slated for June 22

GALLERY: Week-long Coal Miner Days a huge success

Skate jam set to become a permanent fixture of Coal Miner Days; other events well attended

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

Elk Valley Bulls RFC reclaim Kootenay Cup

Elk Valley beats Cranbrook 7-5 to win Kootenay Cup; team off to provincials in September

B.C. VIEWS: When farmland protection doesn’t protect farmers

Secondary residences aren’t mansions, families tell Lana Popham

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

Revamped B.C. Lions set to battle veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Lions’ first test of the season will be a big one

Most Read