Getting people educated on avalanche danger all starts with an introduction.
That’s the theme for Whistler Blackcomb’s Avalanche Awareness Days, taking place on Blackcomb Mountain this weekend (Jan. 17 – 18).
“Although the business (of Whistler Blackcomb) is protecting people inside the boundaries and offering lift access, a wonderful part about skiing and snowboarding is getting outside the boundaries,” said Richard Wyne, a Blackcomb ski patroller and organizer of the Whistler Avalanche Awareness Days. “We like to give people an awareness of what we do to protect them within our area and also give them the tools to explore outside the area in a way that’s deliberate and with knowledge so they can continue to do it safely and have a really good time at it.”
Over the course of the weekend, Wyne and his staff of ski patrollers and avalanche experts will be on hand at the Avalanche Hut (adjacent to the Rendezvous on Blackcomb Mountain) to host two-hour Avalanche Awareness tours of the mountain (beginning at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.), conduct transceiver search demonstrations and have trained avalanche dogs demonstrate burial scenarios in the afternoons. In past years Avalanche Awareness Days have attracted hundreds of people from all demographics, both visitors and locals.
“It’s really weather dependent and snow dependent,” said Wyne of the attendance. “If we have nice weather and the skiing is pretty firm, we do very well. If there’s a storm, people want to be skiing in the snow. On a very good turnout I’d say we’d get several hundred people throughout the course of the days by either participating in the tours or stopping to chat to patrollers or avalanche experts.”
While many aspiring backcountry enthusiasts will be attending, Wyne noted that the Avalanche Awareness tours — which are available daily throughout the season — are also geared for resort skiers.
“It’s a great introduction for people who stay in bounds,” said Wyne. “They can learn a little bit about how much our ski area operators, and Whistler Blackcomb in particular, does to protect people. We do a huge amount to protect our guests inside the boundaries and outside of those boundaries the obligation is on those individuals to get the proper education and the proper equipment to take care of themselves.”
As part of its annual public awareness campaign, Avalanche Canada is partnering with local resorts and the provincial government to host Avalanche Awareness Days across the country in B.C., Alberta, Yukon, Nunavut and Quebec from this weekend until March.
For more information head to avalanche.ca or whistlerblackcomb.com/backcountry.