Those thinking of backcountry excursions this winter, but who aren’t familiar with the terrain, are in luck as the yearly Avalanche Awareness Days returns to the Bow Valley for a fun and informative weekend (Jan. 19 and 21).
In Lake Louise, Banff and Kananaskis Country, public safety specialists are hosting free Avalanche Awareness seminars for beginners and seasonal workers.
“Every year there are close calls and accidents that result in fatalities throughout Western Canada,” said Brian Webster, manager of visitor of safety for Banff National Park.
Starting in Lake Louise on Friday (Jan. 19), the Staying Alive: Avalanche Awareness Night begins at 6 p.m. at the Info Centre.
On Sunday (Jan. 21), Avalanche Awareness Days in Kananaskis Country goes from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Burstall Pass day use area, off Smith Dorrien Trail near Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.
The K-Country event takes place outdoors, so dress appropriately and bring a travel mug.
Later that evening in Banff, Avalanche Awareness Night starts at 7 p.m. at Banff Centre’s Max Bell Auditorium.
For more than 15 years, the Lake Louise Staying Alive event has had a trade show, speakers, short and educational ski films. Local retailers will be on hand.
“It’s a real fun theme and probably most important of all is there’s free pizza and refreshments,” said Webster.
“We’ll make people aware that avalanches are a big hazard in the wintertime and give them tools to learn and be better informed. It’s not an educational course, but it’ll give them tools to find more information.”
Safety specialists agree that before recreationalists head into the snowy backcountry, they should take Avalanche Safety Training, which is a two-day, weekend course.
“It’s a good investment for people wanting to go in the backcountry,” Webster said.
Out in Kananaskis, it will be the sixth annual Avalanche Awareness Days this Sunday, and the outdoor event will feature avalanche safety workshops with trained professionals, vendors, planned activities and demonstrations.
“So, we’re targeting mostly people who are green, or white, because it’s winter not summer,” said Corrie Turner, seasonal interpretation and Discovery Centre supervisor for Alberta Parks. “But they’re new to backcountry and they’re interested in knowing more about what kind knowledge they might need to get into, let’s say, snowshoeing or skiing that isn’t in a flat environment.”
Activities will include crowd favourite rescue dog demos, fat bike demos, shovel dig races, fire-making demos, quinzee building and beacon searches.
“They’ll get all the experiential, hands on knowledge, get some free food, and get to be outside,” said Turner.
It should be noted these events are an educational opportunity for the public and should not be thought as a substitute for an avalanche safety course.
Information on essential safety equipment, training courses, daily mountain condition updates, and many online resources can be found at www.avalanche.ca.