The British Columbia government is providing a $10-million grant to a not-for-profit organization dedicated to avalanche safety.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says the grant will support the work of Avalanche Canada in its ongoing efforts to develop and deliver avalanche safety and awareness in the B.C.’s mountain regions.
He says the grant allows the Revelstoke-based service to expand its regional avalanche forecasts and safety training programs, including to Vancouver Island.
Farnworth says 75 per cent of all avalanche fatalities in Canada occur in B.C. and 90 per cent of Avalanche Canada’s services are delivered in the province.
Gilles Valade, Avalanche Canada’s executive director, says the funding will allow it to expand its services to underserved regions and Vancouver Island.
“Our commitment was as soon as we have the resources we’d like to expand our services to Vancouver Island and it’s mostly been promises so far, but as of today we can finally follow through with this,” he said.
The expansion could put a local grassroots Vancouver Island avalanche team on the outside.
There has never been a recorded avalanche death on the island but 14 years ago, citing more people going into the backcountry and actual avalanches that can number in the hundreds every year, the Vancouver Island Avalanche Centre Society and the Island Avalanche Bulletin was created.
It applied for grants and never got them but raised enough private money every year to provide dozens of bulletins to ten of thousands of people.
“It is a sad day for us at the Vancouver Island Avalanche Centre but really when we think about it the end goal is to provide the best product to the public from an avalanche perspective and Avalanche Canada is extremely well-suited to take on that role,” said VIACS President Ryan Shelly.
Avalanche Canada says the Island will be the 15th region it covers in B.C., adding that there will be a full-time field team on the Island from November to April.
With files from The Canadian Press