Fernie “hosts” Virtual Snow Science Workshop

The event featured speakers, presentations, and discussions about avalanche and snow science

The Virtual Snow Science Workshop (VSSW), a live-streamed snow and avalanche conference, hit worldwide screens this past weekend, bringing together over 900 participants from around the world.

“This conference is about waking up and remembering that we are in some crazy places within the world and we need to have our guard up,” said chairman of the 2021 ISSW committee, Steve Kuijt.

“There will certainly be lots of pertinent things for the avid backcountry traveler for this winter.”

The event was complete with 50 interactive poster presentations, two interactive panel discussions and 14 speaker sessions delineating the most current information in avalanche and snow science from industry experts, policy makers, stakeholders, scientists and practitioners.

Presentations included case histories on avalanche accidents and discussions about avalanche debris flow, both topics relevant to the City of Fernie, who will be undergoing avalanche hazard assessments this upcoming winter.

“We have a strong avalanche community in Fernie–not just from Fernie Alpine Resort, but at Island Lake Lodge, recreationalists and snowmobilers,” said Kuijt.

“It’s been my goal to try and keep this as international as possible, but put on by local people.”

According to Kuijt, the virtual format of this year’s conference made it accessible for those in the snow science community who otherwise would not be able to attend due to monetary or time constraints.

Kuijt further assures that plans for the in-person 2021 ISSW conference to be held in Fernie are still underway.

The VSSW coincides with FAR’s announcement of the installation of a new and improved remote avalanche control system on the Lizard headwall.

The system, called TAS O’bellx, functions remotely via an exploding oxygen-hydrogen mixture located inside an open cone shell. The system allows for pin-point explosions to be detonated at anytime, regardless of weather.

The structures are placed in avalanche start zones prior to the first snowfall of the season, and removed during the summer.

TAS O’bellx is an environmentally friendly alternative that reduces risk for ski patrol while making hard to access terrain easily bomb-able, ultimately allowing for the Lizard Bowl to open sooner on heavy snowfall days.


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