Avalanche Canada shuts down forecasting early in light of COVID concerns

Photo: Laura Keil - Sunny skies and warmer temps made for fantastic skiing in the McKirdy Meadows on the last day of 2015. Above, Braden Hutchins cascades down the powdery slope back towards the McKirdy Hut Cabin. The cabin is available for overnight stays. Bookings can be made through YORA at the Caribou Grill.

By Laura Keil


With files with Avalanche Canada

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

Avalanche Canada says its forecasts rely primarily on data from a network of avalanche professionals across western Canada and the early closure of backcountry operations due to the Covid-19 pandemic has cut off much of that data stream.

“The warning service is no longer receiving enough information to issue accurate forecasts,” a press release said.

Avalanche Canada also said the decision was prompted by concerns for the healthcare system during this epidemic.

“Both BC and Alberta have declared a state of emergency,” said Executive Director Gilles Valade. “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 is also shutting 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 says it 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.”

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