Friday, 17 March 2017 08:00

March one of the worst months for avalanche deaths

Written by  Stephanie Labbe
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Avalanches are a common occurrence during the winter months and snowmobiling safety is a must for those in the backcountry.

Mary Clayton, communications director for Avalanche Canada, says avalanches happen all the time, so they don’t track the number of avalanches. They do track the number of avalanches that have killed people and so far this year, there have been four people killed.
The 10-year running average for avalanche deaths is 13 people, but March is statistically the deadliest month, so avalanche season is not over yet.
Officials with Avalanche Canada forecast avalanche season lasts until about mid-April. However, people can be killed in avalanches any month of the year if they go high enough into the mountains.
All backcountry users should have training. Clayton says an avalanche skills training course is the bare minimum all backcountry users should have.
Enthusiasts also need to have proper safety gear. Everyone in the backcountry needs an avalanche transceiver, a probe and a shovel. They should know how to use them and be familiar with their gear and have it in good shape.
“Before you head out, check the forecast. The conditions are changing all the time,” adds Clayton.
In 2016, there were 15 people who died in avalanches — 12 were snowmobilers.
In the past five years, there have been 45 deaths in relation to avalanches and 24 of those deaths were snowmobilers. All of the snowmobiling incidents during that time occurred in B.C. with two-thirds of the victims being residents of Alberta.
There seems to be a pattern in the accidents in B.C. as a majority of victims are from Alberta.
Avalanche Canada officials study those statistics and feel their safety messages aren’t reaching Albertans.
Each year, more than 8,000 people take the Avalanche Skills Training Course with only about 15 per cent snowmobilers.
Avalanche Canada officials want more snowmobilers taking this course and being more prepared.
For information on avalanche safety training available through Avalanche Canada, visit  and click on ‘Learn’.

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