Outdoor enthusiasts who venture into Vancouver Island’s backcountry will have more accurate and frequent avalanche bulletins to guide them beginning this week.
Avalanche Canada has assumed forecasting duties for the island, taking over from the volunteer group that previously handled the task.
“The Vancouver Island Avalanche Centre Society forecasted for Vancouver Island for 13 years and really set an amazing foundation for Avalanche Canada,” says avalanche technician Colin Garritty.
Garritty is on the new field team that set out for the first time Thursday to gather information for Avalanche Canada.
“[Backcountry users] look at us as a resource for all kinds of avalanche information, including conditions, sharing and talking about incidents, as well as the kind of outreach we do over the course of the season” he says.
Bill Phipps is another team member who previously volunteered on the bulletin. He sees the switch as a leap forward.
“They just provide extra hours that we can be in the field, extra tools and a huge body of education and knowledge on the team that can supplement what we had in the past and give us a more substantial product,” Phipps says.
Three-person teams will head out on snowmobiles to gather information for the daily reports from an operation based out of Revelstoke, B.C., which will run seven days a week.
“We’re going to have teams in the field four days a week, out getting the best observations we can and we’re going to get around as much as we can to really encapsulate the entirety of the island,” says team member Karina Bakker.
Bakker says a key part of the website will be information gathered by members of the public using the Mountain Information Network.
“They can submit their own field reports as to what they’ve seen that day and we take it into account and it gives us a nice breadth of information to work off of,” she says.
Forecast program supervisor James Floyer says users will now be able to get a wider range of information on the avalanche.ca website.
“We provide mountain weather forecasts provided for us by the Metrological Service of Canada and then we have online education, what’s called Avy Savvy it’s free to use, as well as a whole bunch of other resources,” Floyer says. “Everything from gear, avalanche safety courses, upcoming webinars, there’s a lot of information.”