Watching the Weather

Posted on Oct 18, 2012

Have you been watching the weather? I certainly have. In my profession you always do! Though I know that skiing powder is still a little ways off I can tell you that it looks like we’ll be seeing some snow in the Island Alps this week end.

Watching the approach of the ski and snowboard season got me thinking about how many of you ask me which sources I use for weather both to know what has happened recently and to make forecasts. Of course with the internet these days the publicly available informations is incredible. I remember “back in the day” when we were running a helicopter skiing operation in the Himalayas, we had to set up our own satellite system to bring down a few pictures to make our crude weather predictions. It’s gone way beyond that now and though I have access to some stuff professionally with the avalanche centre that I can not share with you, there is so much in the public realm that you would be hard pressed to run out of interesting stuff to look at!

To see what has been happening in the island weather the BC Hydro Hydromet Data site  provides real time temperatures and precipitation as well as winds at some sites. Of particular interest is the Wolf River station (WOL on the map). This one is at tree line elevation at about 1450m. The geographical spread of the other locations will give you a good idea of the variation in precipitation amounts found on different parts of the island. The standard Environment Canada web site also has historical data that you can access. On the page of the location that you are interested in scroll down to the “Historical Data” section at the bottom of the page and click on the “More Info” and then “Historical Weather”. You can look at daily values over a  month or click on a particular day and look at hourly data for that day. Be aware that for many stations the data will only come up to about twelve hours or more previous.

For making weather predictions is a great portal for everything mountain weather. Check out their links page and from there the Education Other page. The latter includes amazing educational resources to help you understand the incredible array of possibilities which meteorologist Uwe Graman is offering on this comprehensive mountain weather site. A few of my favourites are the MM5 precipitation models, the satellite pictures and the various aviation weather resources.

A more crude yet simple site is The information on this site is all generated by one computer model. You ned to be aware that larger scale models like this one are crude in the way that they model terrain and that different models will give you different predictions as to what will happen in the weather. If you rely only on one model you will often get your predictions wrong. Better to compare a number of models and see where they agree and disagree. To compare many models at once I have become aware of a fantastic new site at Enter a location name or coordinates, or use the map to choose your location and the then click on one of a number of models to see their outputs for that location. The map even shows you where the grid from each model sits on the map. Thanks to meteorologist Mort Allingham for turning me on to this site.

Finally if your time is limited, you don’t really want to be a weather geek and/or you don’t mind waiting for more snow to fly, then just check in with the Island Avalanche Bulletin at As avalanche forecasters we do all the work for you in looking at the resources I have mentioned above and many more to bring you not only a forecast of avalanche hazard but also detailed weather predictions and descriptions of how these will affect conditions in the mountains.

I’d love to hear your feedback and questions on the above. Drop me a line at to share your thoughts.

Keep your fingers crossed for dry pow soon!

Jan and the team at Island Alpine Guides

Winter Stoke!

Posted on Sep 13, 2012

Winter is around the corner and I am stoked!


I know that for some people there is sadness associated with the cooler nights and the shorter days at this time of year. But for me there is a building excitement. Why? Because I love to ski! Despite almost twenty years of ski guiding for a living and more than fourty five winters on skis and snowboard, I still love it. Sure we still have some beautiful autumn weather coming and rock climbing courses and mountain trips to do, but I am starting to feel the winter stoke none the less.

I am going into this winter with as much enthusiasm as any. I’ve got some great Island and mainland ski touring planned, a bunch of heli skiing as always and I know that we will be as busy as ever training people in avalanche and winter mountain skills.

On the training front I am excited about a couple of new offerings for this winter. Both of these courses come out of clearly demonstrated needs as expressed by our guests, students and staff. Here they are:

Life After Avalanche Skills Training


For many people making the step from their avalanche skills training to actually getting out touring in the back country is a bit daunting. This course is designed just for that. The idea was actually developed by some of our students and the results have been spectacular. Spend a day with a super experienced ski guide as they facilitate a trip planning session followed by a full day of student led, guide facitlitated touring in avalanche terrain and a structured debrief to end the day. Students will gain the confidence to plan and execute their own trips as well as a ton of local knowledge about their touring destinations. We will offer these courses predominantly at Mount Washington and Mount Cain, but we’ll also be happy to do them in more remote backcountry locations either as two day courses or in a single day with helicopter access.

Ski Performance for Backcountry


A lot of people are thinking about getting into the backcountry these days. The numbers on our avalanche courses are a good indication of that! But for many people, the thing that they know they need to work on is their skiing, especially in natural snow conditions. That's why we've developed this program. Three, two and a half hour, low ratio sessions with a high end ski instructor are followed by a day of off-piste backcountry with our certified guides. While natural conditions ski technique is the emphasis, terrain choice, a basic introduction to avalanche safety and many other relevant skills are covered. The goal is to set you up perfectly to succeed in the backcountry.

Check these new offerings as well as a bunch of other cool stuff on our web site and do get in touch if you have any questions or want to book a program.

Stay tuned for snow, but do do let us know if you have some goals in the mountains or on rock yet this autumn!

Jan and the team at Island Alpine Guides

Shop Local

Posted on Jul 3, 2012

I was in Victoria the other day visiting all the great outdoor retailers, climbing gyms etc. that have been so supportive of what we do here at Island Alpine Guides. On one of those visits with Brian Henry at Ocean River Sports we got to talking about a project that Brian has been working on called “Shop Local Victoria”.

It’s no coincidence at all that we got on to the subject of “shopping local”. Since it’s inception our goal at Island Alpine Guides has been to serve Vancouver Islanders. To show them what they have in the beautiful wilderness in their own back yards and to give them the skills to explore that beauty. Indeed we have made no efforts at all to promote what we do off Vancouver Island. It has been our contention that Islanders love their island and want to explore it and also that vacationing close to home is becoming more and more appealing to people for a long list of reasons from environmental to ethical not to mention convenience and aesthetics.

The chat that I was having with Brian and with all the people whom I visited on that trip down island was really illustrative of what the folks at Shop Local Victoria and at local shopping initiatives all over are trying to do: encourage people to shop locally to create collective prosperity, sustain their community, give back and put their money where their heart is, here in their communities on Vancouver Island.

It is our affinity to these concepts that made us write a bunch of tag lines for Island Alpine Guides back when we started. These ranged from “Think Globally, Adventure Locally” to “Looking for Adventure .... it’s right here in your back yard” to the somewhat flippant (hence it never made it on to one of our posters!) “There’s no place like Vancouver Island to get high”. All that aside the point is we support shopping local initiatives and support all those great outdoor retailers, climbing gyms, coffee shops, film festivals, mountain clubs etc. etc. who support us and we hope that you will do the same!

Looking forward to seeing you in the mountains this summer.

Jan and the team at Island Alpine Guides.


While I have your attention here are a few things coming up that have space on them and which may interest you:

Introduction to Rock Climbing 14/15 July

Nootka Trail 27 July - 01 August

Learn to Lead on Rock (trad) 28/29 July

Introduction to Rock Climbing 28/29 July

Augerpoint Traverse 11-14 August

Mountain Skills Helicopter Access 25-27 August

And Remember that we can post a trip or course for any dates that suit you. Just get in touch and we'll get them up on the site so that others know that they can join in on those dates.

Some Date Changes

Posted on May 17, 2012

We've had the dates for some of our upcoming courses and trips change and have added some new trips as well. Here's a snapshot of some of what is coming up:

Saturday 26 May - Skiing/Riding Spring Lines on Mount Arrowsmith
Sunday 3 June - One Day Crevasse Rescue Workshop
Saturday/Sunday 2/3 June - Traditional Rock Leading Course
Saturday/Sunday 9/10 June - Intro to Rock Climbing
Saturday-Monday 30 June - 2 July (Canada Day Long Week end) - 3 Day Alpine Skills Course
Saturday-Monday 30 June - 2 July (Canada Day Long Week end) - Fly in Mountain Skills Course
July 14/15 - Introduction to Rock Climbing July 20-25 - Nootka Trail Hike
July 28/30 - Tantalus Range Ascents

There is much more going on yet this summer and remember that the way we prefer to set dates for trips is for you to let us know when you want them to happen. So get in touch and choose some dates for your Island adventures this summer!

Enjoy the weather!


Why professional instruction?

Posted on May 8, 2012

When I think about what we do in our climbing instruction I am reminded of a letter that I got from one of our students which illustrates well what many of you have told us about what our courses have done for your climbing careers. Here is an excerpt:

"Professional instruction proved priceless to me on so many levels. I noticed my base technical skills were at a higher level compared to more "seasoned" climbers. There is just so much ground level knowledge I gained that would have been impossible to replicate without professional instruction. As I progressed in my climbing, I teamed up with my instructor as a climbing partner four years later on a 3000ft big wall on Baffin Island. I highly recommend professional training from certified guides to anyone serious about climbing safely and effectively."

I’ve watched a lot of people climb. From people learning to climb right up to seasoned climbers with years of experience. While you might think that the latter demonstrated the most refined skills I can tell you with certainty that this is not the case. The fact is that in the absence of a negative feedback to inform us otherwise, we tend to repeat the same behaviours over and over again for years on end regardless of whether that action is the most efficient, safe or suitable. That is a long way of saying that just because a climber is seasoned does not mean that the techniques they use are the best ones. They could well have been doing things the wrong way for a long time!

The big advantage of taking professional training is that you learn how to do stuff right. The obvious time to get stuff right is from the very beginning of your career. Then you can be practicing the right stuff all the way along the path as you become more experienced. Having said that it is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. So I am going to endorse the idea of even those seasoned climbers considering some instruction from professional guides to “tighten up” their technical systems and to learn some new, faster, safer and more efficient techniques.

We have a bunch of climbing instruction scheduled for this spring and summer not to mention peak ascents, hikes and much more. Below are a few examples up to July. But these are just a few of the dates we have planned. We do as much “custom” work as we do scheduled trips and we prefer to have you define the dates for courses and trips rather than us doing it. So if one of our trips is of interest or if you have a crazy idea of something special you want to do, drop us a line and let us know the dates you want to go on and we’ll post them on the web site to get others to join you!

May 26 - Crevasse Rescue Course
May 27 - Rock Refresher Course
June 2/3 - Learn to Lead on Rock
June 9/10 - Introduction to Rock Climbing
June 22-24 - Three Day Alpine Skills Course
June 30 to July 2 - Fly in Mountain Skills Course
July 14/15 - Introduction to Rock Climbing
July 20-25 - Nootka Trail Hike
July 28/30 - Tantalus Range Ascents

Looking forward to a great spring and summer!