Avalanche Canada seeks support

Donations key in ongoing avalanche safety programs

With an average of 14 fatalities per year from 1998 to 2007, staying at the forefront of avalanche education in Canada is more important than ever.

The Avalanche Canada Foundation (formerly the Canadian Avalanche Foundation) receives funding from provincial and national government and a handful of corporate sponsors, but still relies on private donations for the most of its grant programs, including Avalanche Canada (formerly the Canadian Avalanche Centre).

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“They’re critical,” said Gilles Valade, executive director of Avalanche Canada. “Without these (fundraisers), we can’t survive. We’re a non-profit, non-government organization and we get part of our funding from governments, but more than half comes from donations and sponsorships. The foundation is our biggest funder and so without these fundraising events we would have to cut the programs. It’s vital to what we do and it’s a way to be part of the community and get the message out there.”

To garner local support, the ACF is holding a Whistler fundraising gala at Dusty’s on Friday (Nov. 28), which will include a dinner, silent auction and a feature presentation by Squamish photographer Chris Christie.

“We’re hoping to raise $30,000, beyond our expenses,” said John Hetherington, former co-owner of Whistler Heliskiing and ACF director since 2010. “A lot of (the money) will go to Avalanche Canada. That’s the organization that puts out the avalanche bulletins that are used by so many people these days. Money also goes to research and education.”

For the 2014/15 winter season the board of directors of the ACF approved funding $154,050 in support of public avalanche safety initiatives. Approximately $90,000 of that funding went directly to Avalanche Canada’s ongoing operational support of the Public Avalanche Warning System, which includes the daily bulletins that are crucial to backcountry trip planning. The remainder of the funding went towards snowpack modelling in data-sparse regions, continuation of youth education systems and support of Avalanche Canada staff to present at the International Snow Science Workshop (ISSW) in Banff last month.

“A lot of (the money) will go to Avalanche Canada. That’s the organization that puts out the avalanche bulletins that are used by so many people these days.”

Back in September, Avalanche Canada announced its re-branding and new logo from the old name Canadian Avalanche Centre. It said the former name and logo often got confused with the Canadian Avalanche Association (CAA), the partnered, but separate entity that provides resources for industry professionals.

“The Canadian Avalanche Association, The Canadian Avalanche Centre and the Canadian Avalanche Foundation all had very similar names and acronyms and all shared one logo,” said Valade. “It was very difficult to make our position clear in terms of our role with public avalanche safety versus the CAA, which represents avalanche professionals. This year was our 10-year anniversary and we figured it was a good opportunity to do this re-branding we had talked about for a while. With a new name and new logo it’s going to be easier to be identifiable.”

Valade emphasized that while the branding may be different, all online resources for public avalanche safety information have remained in the same web location.

“Our internet and web presence was not going to change because everyone has avalanche.ca in their bookmarks and all the highway signs and other public information sources are marked like this,”
he said.

The avalanche.ca website is currently being updated and the new version will be live in a few weeks.

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