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Fernie's ‘Shakey Dave’ gets mountain culture award

Long-time avalanche forecaster and educator, David Aikens, was awarded the Fernie Mountain Culture Award.
Dave with his award.

Long-time avalanche forecaster and educator, David Aikens, was awarded the Fernie Mountain Culture Award at the 2013 Fernie Mountain Film Festival on Saturday, February 23.

The award celebrates the accomplishments of an inspiring individual and recognizes their contributions to Fernie’s local mountain culture.

Dave moved out west in 1974, after completing a degree in Geography at the University of Guelph, Ontario. He worked summer seasons with the B.C. Forest Service in the Sicamous area, before starting with Parks Canada in the SRAWS program (Snow Research and Avalanche Warning Section).

In February 1979, the Griz Chair at Snow Valley (now Fernie Alpine Resort) was hit by an avalanche, causing serious damage. The B.C. Ministry of Transportation decided that a more formalized avalanche control program was necessary at the resort to ensure public safety.  Heiko Socher invited Dave to Fernie and offered him the new position of Snow Safety Analyst and Pro Patrol Director. Dave advanced the development and implementation of snow safety practices and procedures at the resort including avalanche safety planning, avalanche mapping, blasting protocol, and first aid and emergency response. He hired and trained staff, encouraged volunteers, developed policy and procedure manuals, and represented company interests with various outside agencies.

Being responsible for avalanche safety and forecasting decisions at the resort, Dave worked very long weeks. Days off were rare. Through the years as Pro Patrol Director, Dave was able to hire, mentor and retain a high quality of professional patrol. He also fostered a dedicated group of CSPS volunteers.  Alumni mentored through Dave’s programs have gone on to establish careers in the Canadian and International avalanche and snow research community.

Dave, also known as ‘Shakey Dave,’ has also instructed Avalanche Awareness courses through the College of the Rockies since 1980 and he was instrumental in the successful recovery of Ryan Radchenko in 2000 after he was buried by a slide in ‘Shakey’s Acres,’ named for Dave, for over 20 minutes.