Covid, funding, and forecasting concerns for Avalanche CanadaIt seems the effect of the pandemic on our ski seasons knows no bounds. This season Avalanche Canada is experiencing not only a lack of funding but losses within the data stream that provide the backbone of our avalanche forecasts and bulletins.
In order to produce the public avalanche bulletin, Avalanche Canada relies heavily on observations provided by ski resorts, backcountry ski operations, and avalanche control operations for industry and transport. With many backcountry lodges unable to operate in the current environment, the loss of weather, snowpack, and avalanche observations that Avalanche Canada is able to collect translate directly to fewer data points with which to create a public avalanche bulletin. Less data means lower confidence and more conjecture, which is less than ideal when dealing with avalanche problems.
This comes at an interesting time with an expectation for increased backcountry visitation, especially from inexperienced users.
On top of this, the confirmed funding from the BC government is zero dollars, and fundraising events that are normally held in person have had to be canceled due to restrictions and logistical shenanigans imposed by Covid. If losses in funding were not enough, operating costs have gone up! The result is that Avalanche Canada is planning cost-cutting measures which may result in cuts to programs.
I think we can all agree that this is a bit of a bummer. Fortunately for us, we have options!
First and foremost, consider donating to Avalanche Canada. They provide a number of different ways to donate so you can pick the one that makes you feel best.
Another way to pitch in is to participate in the Mountain Information Network. If you're not familiar with this program, it's a way for each and every one of us to not only access local weather, snowpack, and avalanche observations but report our own observations from our days out in the mountains. With the expected losses in the data stream, this could prove to be a valuable addition to help fill in the gaps.
Most importantly, stay safe out there. Practice safe backcountry travel techniques, practice companion rescue, and consider taking an avalanche skills course, even if it's just as a refresher! Happy trails!