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!
Greetings from the Himalaya! I’m in Nepal again, as I usually am about once a year these days, and I must say it is good to be back. As some of my readers will know this place was home for me in a previous life and while I am so happy to be living on Vancouver Island now I must say it is always good to reconnect with this amazing part of the world.
I’m off to Kanchenjunga in a couple of days to explore the remote north eastern corner of Nepal. It promises to be both visually stunning and culturally fascinating. But I have to say that as I visit old friends here I find myself showing them photographs of the mountains at home with a sense of pride. Not only do we have remote and beautiful mountains on Vancouver Island, we have something rarely found in this part of the world: true wilderness. Our peaks may not be as high as the Himalaya but they are certainly remote and uniquely beautiful and the good news is that most people do not even know that we have mountains on Vancouver Island so they are all ours to explore in solitude.
It’s warm here in Kathmandu (mid to high twenties by day) but soon we’ll be in the high country with temperatures dipping well below freezing at night. It’ll make good training for coming home to winter. Ah winter! I love the onset of winter on the west coast with the first snow on the peaks in November and dreams of skiing to come. You may remember that last winter we were out skiing great low density powder in November. Let’s hope for some more of that this year! I am really looking forward to the start of the ski guiding season, teaching avalanche courses and forecasting for the Island Avalanche Bulletin.
I hope that you are looking forward to winter too and that we’ll see you on a trip or course this winter. Get in touch to let us know your plans or if you want route information or conditions up dates. Similarly if you are traveling in the mountains and have conditions information to share please get in touch via our contact page and we’ll pass the information along with our observations and others to the readers of this space.
I’ll be updating you with news for the winter when I get back to Canada in November. In the meantime enjoy your autumn and Namaste!
I’m very excited about the look and function of the new IAG web site. The intent of the design is to highlight what an incredible place we live in here on Vancouver Island and to give the visitor to the site a bit of a feel for each of the destinations of our varied trips. We have been immersed in this project with Trigger Communications for some time now so some objective input from you would certainly be appreciated. Please send us your opinions about how the site looks and works for you or anything about it that you care to share with us. Use our contact form or email me directly at email@example.com. And please be aware that the site is brand new and may well have some things to work out. Your patience and your feedback is much appreciated!
Soon IAG will enter it’s fifth year of serving Vancouver Island’s mountain recreation and education needs. While I have been guiding in these Island Alps for about twenty years, it was not until 2007 that we decided to formalise things and start IAG. And here we are entering our fifth year thinking “the timing was about right”. We’ve grown considerably every year since we started and are looking strong into the future as Vancouver Island’s premiere mountain school and guide service. Our growth to now has been thanks almost exclusively to you people right here on the island who keep coming back on more courses and trips with us and sending your friends. Looking into the future we certainly intend to keep meeting the needs of our fellow islanders right here in the island alps. We’ll also start to expand into the wider world of adventure travel by offering exciting multi sport adventure holidays to new guests from off the island. The result will be further growth and success for IAG and bringing new tourism dollars onto the island.
Some of you may be asking “where is the Vancouver Island Mountain Conditions Report (VIMCR)?”. Well it’s not gone but it will take a different form. The fact is that the spammers and hackers were getting the better of our VIMCR on the old web site and maintaining it in the face of their onslaught became unmanageable. So this blog will become, amongst other things, our new VIMCR. When an IAG guide returns from a trip and has information to share they’ll do that via this blog. Similarly if you have observations of routes, conditions or access we encourage you to send them to us and we’ll include them in this blog. This will allow us to “moderate” the information to ensure that the spammers are kept at bay and that the information our users want is always available and useful. We'll also be linking to the popular Vancouver Island Avalanche Bulletin soon.
I hope that you’ll have a cruise around the new site and get in touch with your feed back. I also hope to see you on a trip this summer and look for some exciting new developments coming in the winter.
Happy trails everyone! Jan