The Most Recent Newsletter can be found below, for previous editions please choose from the growing list directly below:
Winter 2010 Newsletter
Hello friends, supporters and backcountry enthusiasts. Welcome to our first newsletter for the 2010/2011 season. We have lots of good news to share about the site, we want to talk a bit about our upcoming Expose Yourself Photo Comp, and we are happy to have an article from local hotshot and all-around good guy, David Lussier of Summit Mountain Guides. Things are looking good out there in the BC and many of you have probably already been touring. Around Nelson, it seems like we could use a freeze/thaw cycle to build our base—that’s what people on the site are telling us anyway. With reports of La Nina and a not-so-amazing season last year, people are jonesing for pow like never before. Enjoy the read and get out there!
OK…so maybe it’s not your average photo comp because we want more than a photo—we want your backcountry skiing story (but that was too long to fit in the name of the contest). We’ve had many, many good trip reports posted on our forums and we want many more. The more posts we have, the better the site is. We’re hoping that our prizes (which! are! in! sane!) will motivate you to post like banshees. If you want to see what the forums are all about, if you haven’t yet, mouse on over here.
How insane are our prizes? How about:
1) two days catskiing at Retallack, with lodging;
2) A pair of BD Justice Skis with Diamir Fritschi Freeride Plus touring bindings fro ROAM in Nelson;
3) Whitewater Avi training weekend for two + 3-day Avalanche Skills Training Course + 1-day ski pass + meal vouchers for the Fresh Tracks Cafe (all from the good people at Whitewater)
4) A Dakine pack from Valhalla Pure. Wow!
Entering the contest is super simple. You have to: sign up to our forums, create a post with a photo/video and 100 word (min.) story, and name the post -- PHOTO COMP - “name of you post here”—so we can find it. That’s it. Easy peasy.
Judges will be looking for creativity, storytelling ability, quality of photos or vids, and the value of the information for backcountry skiers. You can enter as many times as you’d like. Every post counts as an entry. We aren’t necessarily looking for a professional-grade entry either. If something is shot well on a crap camera, with a great story that provides good information for tourers, that may be a winner. In other words, we want to celebrate the amateur and encourage everyone to enter. The more the merrier. To get more info on the contest, check out the site here. Yes we want no nudity. It’s just a name.
At the end of last season, we promised lots of cool new stuff this year. Well, here we are with lots of cool new stuff. Read on for a sampling.
Touring Locations. Much has been happening in this corner of the site. We have more than tripled the number of routes (now featuring 85). This growth is largely thanks to a number of ski guides we are partnering with, as well as some backcountry-obsessed skiers who’ve stepped up and sent us some high-quality stuff. These folks have provided a whack of new routes in places like Smithers, Shames, Rogers Pass, Kananaskis Country, Goat Range and Yoho Park. The plan is to keep adding new routes as they come in. As usual, we respect the secret stash aspect of backcountry skiing. The routes we profile are relatively well known. If you have a new route you’d like to submit, drop in here.
Gear Reviews. We’ve added a new section this year that we are pretty stoked about—and we hope you will be too. It’s where we talk about the kinds of gear that can make the difference between a good and bad day in the backcountry. New stuff is always being added and we are trying to keep it rounded out with a variety of items so it’ll be as helpful as possible. We’ve got a couple pair of boots in there, a pack, some bibs and a few other things. There’s also a direct link to our forums so everybody can add their two cents. If you’d like to see a particular piece of gear reviewed, or if you are a manufacturer and want us to check something out, just ping us here.
The Forums. Lifeblood of backcountryskiing.com, the forums are where you can get on-the-money intel about various tours near you. We’ve worked tirelessly over the summer and fall to make posting as easy as possible. If ever you have trouble, check out our newly renovated and improved help section. There, we walk you through the process of posting vids, pictures and all else. We’re eager to encourage as many posts as possible and we know that if it’s a pain for you, it won’t happen. That’s the thinking behind the new, step-by-step instructions with examples and images we now offer. If you go to the help section and are still stuck, let us know and we’ll answer any questions you have in-person (albeit a virtual person). Don’t forget that, with the Expose Yourself Photo Comp, the forums are where you want to be.
Bells and Whistles. This year we’ve added a feature to make your photos enjoy the impact they deserve. You can post a photo of any size and it will be automatically resized to work with the forums. When you or anybody else looks at your post, they can hover their mouse over the image, the curser changes from an arrow to a finger, you click and BAM your photo increases in size. This feature, called a “lightbox” effect, allows for bigger images and will allow us all to enjoy bigger, better photos. We’ve also redesigned the site and swapped things around a bit. For example, we’ve put the Forum Entries on top of the Latest News on the home page. Little stuff like that, which you may or may not notice, hopefully contributes to an overall pleasant and satisfying visit to backcountryskiingcanada.com.
That’s all for now. Thanks for your continued interest in backcountryskiingcanada.com. We’ll likely be in touch mid-season with another newsletter (#4). Don’t forget to drop into our forums and post a report or two. If you’d like to enter the contest, you are invited and may the best post win!
Have an amazing season,
The Backcountry Skiing Canada Team
Guest article by David Lussier, certified IFMGA Mountain Guide and owner/operator of Summit Mountain Guides.
November has shown all the exciting signs that another snowy winter is underway. Down in the valleys the once vivid foliage has fallen to the ground, the daylight hours are decreasing and the temperatures have cooled off. Winter has already made an appearance in the valleys over the last few weeks with a welcome dump of snow in town and arctic temperatures. With all the natural elements aligned, the human excitement is slowly building with anticipation of another great winter in the mountains.
The mountain environment is rightfully praised and cherished by backcountry enthusiasts. It is an amazing place to connect with nature while exercising. The snow-covered winter landscape, full of contrasts, offers tremendous outdoor recreation opportunities. As much as the winter mountain environment can be a rewarding place, it can also be a dangerous place. One of the main hazards facing winter recreationists in the mountains is avalanches. Statistics speak for themselves, every year there is an average of 14 avalanche fatalities in Canada. To put the odds in your favor, learn to make better decisions in avalanche terrain and, to raise your avalanche awareness level, some avalanche training is highly recommended.
When it comes to avalanche training and education, the Canadian Avalanche Association (CAA) is a world leader. In recent years, the CAA has done a tremendous amount of work to standardize and simplify courses and curriculums. They have set high standards to help guides and educators provide the public with some highly effective avalanche awareness skills.
Generally speaking, avalanche training is either recreational or professional. The recreational avalanche courses are for the general public and people interested in gaining avalanche awareness skills for their personal backcountry adventures. The professional avalanche courses are intended for people who aspire to or already work in the avalanche industry. Both categories offer various levels of courses depending on your skills and goals.
Recreational Avalanche Courses
Recreational avalanche courses are for anyone interested in learning avalanche skills for personal interest. Whether you or your kids are just getting into backcountry skiing, you want to deepen your knowledge base or simply refresh your skills you could start here. Recreational courses vary in length; generally the longer the course, the more skills and experiential practice. Depending on your background and interests, courses to consider are: the 1 day “Avalanche Awareness Courses”, the 2 day “Avalanche skills Level 1 (AST 1)” and the 4 day “Avalanche Skills Level 2 (AST 2)” courses.
The one day avalanche awareness course is entry-level training. This course covers some of the skills required to head into the backcountry including: backcountry safety, etiquette and resources, how to recognize and avoid avalanche terrain as well as basic avalanche safety gear use (beacon, probe & shovel). Many organizations offer this course throughout western Canada. In the Kootenay region, Avalanche Awareness Beyond the Boundaries is a non-profit society that provides free Avalanche Courses to youth aged 13– 18.
The Avalanche Skills Training series (AST 1 & 2) are more in depth programs for backcountry skiers, boarders and snowmobilers. AST courses, formerly known as Recreational Avalanche Courses, have become the accepted recreational model since 2006. They have been developed by the CAA in an effort to improve avalanche safety in Canada. One of the main goals of the AST courses is to provide a decision making framework for recreationists based on the most advanced knowledge available. The curriculum has been streamlined to represent the changing techniques and bring awareness to recourses available so the public can make better decisions when planning a trip or while in avalanche terrain.
The AST 1 course involves about 8 hours of classroom and at least one day in the field. It is ideal for people interested in learning the decision making process and what resources are available and necessary to increase safety when planning a trip or while in avalanche terrain. This is a great course whether you are just starting up or want to refresh your skills with current techniques and up to date resources. The price for this course varies greatly depending on length, instructor skills and training and location of the program. The AST level 1 is a steeping stone for further industry training (i.e. AST 2 and Professional Avalanche Courses).
The AST 2 is a longer course involving about 8 hours of classroom and a minimum of 3 days in the field. It is geared for experienced recreationists interested in refining their decision making skills. Unlike the AST 1, one of the goals of the AST 2 course is to learn how to adapt personal exposure based on the changing avalanche conditions. This is where recreationists will learn about the subtleties in the snowpack, avalanche bulletins, terrain variations, and changing weather patterns and their impact on terrain choices in avalanche terrain. AST 2 is the highest level of recreational training available in Canada. To do this course it is recommended that you have completed the AST 1 course as the material is a continuum and a basis for further training.
There are various levels of instructor experience; for recreational courses instructors have usually completed at least one of the professional avalanche courses. They may also be tied to a particular aspect of the avalanche industry: mountain guiding, avalanche control, or avalanche risk management programs. As avalanche training is highly experiential, when choosing a company or school, consider the professional experience of the instructor.
Instructors teaching 1 or 2 day courses are required to have completed the professional Level 1 course while AST 2 instructors will have completed the Level 2 course and are a professional member of the CAA. For a list of the current avalanche courses in your location, visit the training section of the CAA website: www.avalanche.ca/cac. In the West Kootenay region, there are many AST 1 & AST 2 providers; in Nelson, programs are offered each month by ski and mountain guides, for more information visit www.summitmountainguides.com.
Professional Avalanche Courses
The CAA has developed a thorough and chronological training program for avalanche workers called the Industry Training Program, which includes the “Avalanche Operations Level 1, 2 & 3 courses”. The “Avalanche Operations Courses” provide the academic and practical foundation for avalanche professionals in Canada. These courses are intended for people who aspire to or already work in the avalanche industry such as in snow safety evaluation, avalanche control, avalanche research, avalanche education, mountain guiding, and winter search & rescue operations. Each of these courses is much more expensive and time consuming (they vary in length from 1 to 2 weeks) than a recreational course. Students develop a wide range of skills, build a resume of practical field experience, and learn from some of the most experienced instructors in the the avalanche risk management industry.
The CAA “Avalanche Operations Level 1” course is the entry level course for professionals and the basis for further industry training. It is the logical 1st step for those interested in working in the avalanche industry. Participants must be advanced skiers or split-boarders and should have considerable backcountry travel experience to comply with rising industry standards. Participants must have completed a minimum of one recreational AST courses (preferably both). This intensive 7 to 8 day technical training course is comprised of approximately 40% theory and 60% practical field work. The field work is regarding the formation and nature of avalanches, personal and group safety measures, significant properties of the mountain snowpack, organized search & rescue, recognizing avalanche terrain, operational risk management and decision making as well as the collection & recording of weather, snowpack and avalanche occurrence data. To better represent the various aspects of the industry, this course is available, in different formats, geared either to skiers, snowmobilers, search and rescue personnel or educators. Upon successful completion of the program, participants will have the necessary skills to begin a career in the avalanche industry.
“Avalanche Operations Level 2” course is an advanced 14 day program for people who work full time with avalanche safety, control operations and guiding. Participants must have at least 100 days of operational field experience making and collecting weather data, snowpack information, and avalanche activity observations before applying. This generally requires at least two years of active operational field work and experience under the mentorship of more experienced CAA Professional Members. “Avalanche Operations Level 3” course is very new 5 day course intended for senior position avalanche workers employed in forecasting, risk management, and/or planning positions. For more information on curriculum and prerequisites for these advanced levels, visit www.avalanche.ca/cac.
Mountain recreation in a winter environment is rewarding and exhilarating. It teaches us a great deal about ourselves and our environment. In those moments of bliss, it is often easy to forget about common sense. Through avalanche education, it is possible to gain a proper knowledge base for better decision making in avalanche terrain. The process for better knowledge and experience is lengthy and a journey in itself. Most of the courses offered in Canada target a broad audience and offer a great learning progression.
As in many things, knowledge teaches us the rules and experience teaches us the exceptions. The avalanche world is no different; in fact, it seems like the more we know, the more there is to know. Through this process we gain a better risk awareness perception. Since the level of risk associated with backcountry skiing is high, being humble and adapting to the constantly changing surroundings is key to survival. A good dose of avalanche training will surely play in your favour too!
Have fun learning and enjoy a safe winter!
David Lussier is a fully certified IFMGA Mountain Guide and Professional Member of the Canadian Avalanche Association. He lives is Nelson with his family where he operates his guiding business, Summit Mountain Guides. (All photo by David Lussier)
Get down on it!
Our forums are the place to be for on-the-money backcountry info. If you have any epic journeys, vids or pictures from this season, people want to see and hear. Post away today.