By Rebecca Edwards
More data about avalanche activity will be collected in and around the Elk Valley this winter, to make local avalanche bulletins even more accurate.
The Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) now has a field team of two full time avalanche experts collecting data in popular ski and sled areas that don’t have commercial operations reporting avalanche conditions back to the CAC.
The team has been funded through a $15,000 donation to the CAC by Teck Coal and ongoing funding from the Province of BC, and will access the backcountry using sleds funded partly through donations by Bombardier and Yamaha.
The team members, Gord Ohm and Dave Traz, will cover areas in the Flathead Valley and Crowsnest Pass East where there are no commercial mountain operations.
They will also cover the Elk Valley except the Lizard Range, where the CAC already receives professional snow pack data from Fernie Alpine Resort and Island Lake Lodge.
They will conduct snow pit tests, overhead terrain assessments by helicopter and send regular reports to the forecasters at the CAC in Revelstoke to give them a more complete picture of the snow pack.
CAC Public Avalanche Warning Service Manager, Karl Klassen said the team is an expanded version of one that has operated for the last three years.
“We had a partnership with the University of Calgary where the team collected data for their research projects part of the time, and data for us the rest of the time.
“That project has finished now, but Teck’s donation has allowed us to continue with the team focused on collecting data for us, which means they can get whatever data we need to complete the regional picture.
“Sometimes we need large-scale information and they will have to do a helicopter flight over the region to see what’s going on in terms of wind patterns and avalanche activity.
“Other times we need medium scale information on a river drainage, and they will travel out there and send us data and photographs, or maybe we will need information from a specific aspect or elevation.”
Klassen added that B.C. only has one other field team, which was launched this winter to cover the Wheaton Valley on the BC-Yukon border, and the South Rockies has always been a key forecast region for the centre.
“We have had forecasts in that area since the centre was founded in 2004, because it is such a popular recreation area. But we have always felt that, aside of the Lizard Range, there needed to be more data in the area.
“Having a local partner like Teck is really helpful and we always try to use donations locally.”
Bombardier has loaned the CAC field team a sled for the winter and Yamaha donated part of the cost of a sled for the team.
• Check the South Rockies avalanche reports at www.avalanche.ca