The Avalanche Bulletin & You

Posted on Nov 17, 2011

As some of my readers know, I wear a number of hats, especially in the winter time. Guiding for Island Alpine Guides as well as running the company, guiding and running operations at Pantheon Heli Skiing in the Mount Waddington area and avalanche forecasting and running operations for the Vancouver Island Avalanche Bulletin. It is the last of these roles that I want to write about in this blog because I have a proposal for you to get involved that is both about the bulletin but also about your avalanche education.

One of the more common questions I hear about the Vancouver Island Avalanche Bulletin is “ how do you guys get the data to write your forecasts?”. The answer in short is this: twelve weather stations situated all around the mountainous parts of Vancouver Island, field observations from Island Alpine Guides instructors and guides working on courses and trips, field observations from bulletin forecasters on dedicated data gathering field trips, field observations from other avalanche forecasters working in the field on the island (for example those working on Mount Washington’s avalanche control program) and field observations from recreationists who are doing trips in the island mountains.

The last of the data sources above is the one I want to talk about: it’s you! And I don’t want you to think of this just as a call for information, it is more than that, it’s an opportunity for a partnership.

As anyone who has embarked on avalanche education knows, the learning process in the avalanche world is a complex and a long one. It involves formal training (AST1, AST2, ITP1, ITP2 etc.) and it requires real field experience and mentorship ..... a lot of it. In fact as a portion of the process of becoming a competent recreationist in avalanche terrain or an avalanche professional, formal training plays a very small role and experience and mentorship will take up much, much more of your time. We, the forecasters at the avalanche bulletin, can help you accelerate that process. Every time you send us your observations of avalanche activity, weather, snow quality, snowpack etc.. from your trips into the mountains we’ll likely come back to you with questions. These questions will refine the information that we are getting from you to make it more useful data for the bulletin. But these questions will also highlight for you what you should be looking for when you are out there and will refine your observation skills and decision making over time. As a continual feed back loop this interaction will get more and better data for the bulletin over time and will move you along in your learning process toward whatever goals you have in the avalanche realm be they to become a solid recreational decision maker in avalanche terrain or to pursue a career in the avalanche world.

Whether you have just taken an AST1 course and are embarking on the learning journey or if you are a professional apprentice (ITP1), we can help you develop your skills, and in the process you’ll be increasing the quality of the data stream that the bulletin has available making our forecasts better all the time.

So get involved! head out on lots of trips in the mountains this winter and send us an email when you get back. We’ll be sure to respond and we’ll start a relationship that has you helping out your bulletin and getting something back for your own learning all at once!

Looking forward to hearing from you!