by EVAN MATTHEWS
As a direct result of the fatal Avalanche that claimed five lives just over a year ago, Avalanche Canada has installed a weather station near Renshaw.
The installation comes as an effort to improve and increase Avalanche Canada’s data flow and forecasts for the region, according to James Floyer, senior avalanche forecaster with Avalanche Canada.
“Renshaw has always been on our radar as somewhere we’d like to provide more information,” says Floyer. “It’s certainly increased in importance following last season’s tragedy.”
Historically, Floyer says Avalanche Canada has little data on the North Rockies Region comparatively to other regions. The North Rockies Region extends from Valemount, to Prince George, to Mackenzie (Powder King), Floyer says.
After the avalanche last season, Floyer says Renshaw simply became a higher priority, and as a result, the new weather station is part of Avalanche Canada’s pilot project, called Hot Zone Reports.
The program is designed to use the newly installed weather station to provide information for specific riding areas — potential avalanche “hot zones” — in western Canada, according to Floyer.
The weather stations provide information such as snow depth, wind speed and direction, along with temperature and relative humidity.
“It’s relatively straight forward data,” says Floyer.
“Based on snow depth you can infer whether new snow is falling,” he says, also noting that snow depth, wind speed and temperature are the major factors impacting trends and patterns for specific areas.
The Renshaw weather station is one of four B.C. regions included in the project, he says, mentioning the Kakwa, Hankin-Evelyn and Telkwa backcountry regions.
“A main benefit is the community engagement. It’s the opportunity to interact with local riding groups in a very community-oriented way, and making ourselves known from an Avalanche (safety) point of view,” – James Floyer, senior avalanche forecaster, Avalanche Canada
But part of the program’s (potential for) success, Floyer says, is calling on local snowmobile groups as well as other backcountry users to submit regular information regarding the conditions, which adds to the weather station’s data flow and in turn helps forecasters produce more regular and accurate reports.
The installation of the new station comes with the hands-on help of the Prince George Snowmobile Association (PGSA) and the McBride-based Big Country Snowmobile Association (BCSA), who Floyer credits with bridging a gap between Avalanche Canada and locals.
“A main benefit is the community engagement,” says Floyer. “It’s the opportunity to interact with local riding groups in a very community-oriented way, and making ourselves known from an Avalanche (safety) point of view.”
Avalanche Canada was hoping to nurture its local relationships more so this winter, but with snowpack being as it’s been this year, Floyer says the North Rockies have been a challenging region for anyone to ride this season, and data has been hard to come by as a result.
“We were hopeful we’d be able to forge a partnership to provide more avalanche information for people in the area,” he says. “There’s still a lot of season left.”