When it comes to avalanches on Vancouver Island, a popular misconception is that they don't happen. Not only do they happen, they happen frequently and can wreak havoc on a backcountry adventure.

To promote avalanche awareness and provide basic education on snow safety, Mount Washington is hosting an Avalanche Awareness Day this Saturday, January 14th. The event will be fun, informative, and will provide a jumping-off point for skiers and boarders looking to increase their knowledge in the world of snow.

“We have an extensive avalanche control program at Mount Washington that incorporates both explosive and ski cutting techniques to initiate avalanches within our Resort boundaries," explains Jesse Percival, Patrol Director at the Resort.

Mount Washington's Pro Patrol staff make their way up the slopes in the early hours of the morning to ski cut and detonate explosives in the snow to release weaker layers hidden within the snowpack. The control work is vital in maintaining safe slopes for skiers and boarders on the mountain.

“We have a team of Pro Patrollers that are trained as Avalanche Technicians,” adds Percival. “All of our Avy Techs have received their certification through courses developed by the Canadian Avalanche Association.”

An Avalanche Technician ski cuts near the top of Little Washington peak. Photo courtesy of Mount Washington

On Mount Washington, steeper terrain in the popular Outback and West Basin areas are part of the regular curriculum for avalanche control work after a big dump of snow. In the backcountry and beyond the patrolled boundaries of the Resort, the slopes are not controlled and this is where the greater risks exist for skiers and boarders.

“You need the proper training and tools to perform self-rescue when venturing into uncontrolled terrain.”

It sounds like serious business and at the end of the day, it is. The Avalanche Awareness Day this Saturday will provide a great introduction to the tools and techniques used in determining snow stability and performing snow rescue. In addition, there will be an amazing Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog (CARDA) demonstration and, as always, there will be beacon races for those with a more competitive nature!

A silent auction will also be held during the day with all proceeds going to the Canadian Avalanche Association. The money will be used to support snow safety education programs and the maintenance of various avalanche bulletins across the province through the Canadian Avalanche Centre.

The event takes place at the new Backcountry Access Beacon Training Park which is located on the flats between the bottom of the Whiskey Jack and Eagle Chairs. For more information and the event schedule for this Saturday, visit the event calendar at mountwashington.ca.

Mount Washington Alpine Resort is located 30 minutes above the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island.  WestJet, Central Mountain Air, Pacific Coastal Airlines, and Island Express service the Comox Valley Airport (YQQ). To find out about accommodation and package information, call Mount Washington Alpine Resort at 1-888-231-1499 toll free or locally at 250-338-1386.  Surf to http://www.mountwashington.ca for additional information including our live snow cam.