COVID-19 Pandemic Forces Avalanche Canada to Stop Forecasting Early

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Avalanche Canada will issue its last avalanche forecast for the season this week — a month earlier than normal. Photo by SnowBrains

Avalanche Canada will issue its final avalanche forecast for the season this week — a month earlier than usual. The organization has said that their decision is due to lack of reliable data and concerns for the healthcare system which is currently being stressed by the COVID-19 pandemic. They outlined in a press release:

“Avalanche Canada will issue its final forecast for the season on March 28, which is about a month earlier than normal. The final three-day forecast will remain in effect until March 30.

Avalanche Canada’s forecasts rely primarily on data from a network of avalanche professionals across western Canada. The early closure of backcountry operations due to the Covid-19 pandemic has cut off much of that data stream, so the warning service is no longer receiving enough information to issue accurate forecasts.

This decision to end forecasting early is also prompted by concerns for the healthcare system during this epidemic. “We do not want to provide a service that promotes recreating in mountainous terrain, where there is often significant hazard,” explains Executive Director Gilles Valade. “Both BC and Alberta have declared a state of emergency. Our health authorities, as well as our Prime Minister, are urging people to stay home. This is clearly not the time for taking any sort of risk.”

In addition to the early end of the forecasts, Avalanche Canada will also shut down the Mountain Information Network (MIN). This online platform allows backcountry users to submit trip reports and observations from the field. In normal times, the MIN is a highly successful strategy for exchanging real-time information. But, as with the forecasts, Avalanche Canada does not want MIN reports to serve as encouragement to go into the backcountry.

“We do not take these steps lightly,” adds Valade. “Avalanche Canada is the national public avalanche safety organization and we take our responsibilities very seriously. But we feel it is essential that we work together and do what we can to avoid putting any extra load on our healthcare system at this time.”

Founded in 2004 and based in Revelstoke, B.C., Avalanche Canada is a non-government, non-profit organization whose aim is to minimize public avalanche risk in avalanche terrain. They produce free, public avalanche forecasts for many of the mountainous regions of western Canada.

The coronavirus affects everyone, especially those in the ski industry. It’s a tough call for Avalanche Canada and many other ski industry businesses to shut down early for the season, but its worth it when it comes to battling this ongoing pandemic.


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