Government of Canada provides $625,000 to Canadian Avalanche Centre to better protect the public



    REVELSTOKE, BC, Sept. 5 /CNW Telbec/ - Jim Abbott, Member of Parliament
for Kootenay Columbia, on behalf of the Honourable John Baird, Minister of the
Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, today announced that
the Government of Canada will provide $625,000 to the Canadian Avalanche
Centre.
    The funding will be used to develop and deliver public avalanche safety
programs and services across Canada in both official languages.
    "In Canada over the past ten years, avalanche accidents have killed an
average of 14 people per year, making snow avalanches the single greatest
threat to winter recreation in the mountains," said Mr. Abbott. "The work
undertaken by the Canadian Avalanche Centre protects the health and safety of
Canadians and is crucial to reducing risks and saving lives."
    "We have a long history of working together on avalanche awareness and
safety," said Clair Israelson, executive director of the Canadian Avalanche
Centre. "Together with a wide range of other organizations and agencies, both
public and private, we are creating world-class public safety programs that
save lives. We are pleased that our results over the past four years have
prompted this renewed commitment from the Government of Canada. We look
forward to continuing this collaboration announced here today by Mr. Abbott."
    The Canadian Avalanche Centre, headquartered in Revelstoke, British
Columbia, was established in 2004 and serves as Canada's national public
avalanche safety organization by:

    
    - Coordinating public avalanche safety programming;
    - Providing public avalanche safety warnings;
    - Delivering public avalanche awareness and education;
    - Providing avalanche training for non-professional winter recreation;
    - Serving as point of contact for public, private and government
      avalanche information; and
    - Encouraging avalanche research.

    For more information about Environment Canada's programs and services
please visit: http://www.ec.gc.ca
    Environment Canada's Meteorological Service provides Canadians access to
vital weather information and weather warnings 24/7. For more information,
please visit: http://www.msc-smc.ec.gc.ca
    For more information about the Canadian Avalanche Centre, please visit
their Web site at: www.avalanche.ca

    (Egalement offert en français)

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                                 BACKGROUNDER
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              Avalanches: Be Weather Aware and Weather Prepared

    Who?

    Over the last ten years, avalanche accidents have killed an average of 14
people in Canada each year, making avalanches the single greatest threat to
winter recreation in the mountains. This means it is vital to keep informed of
weather conditions that can rapidly affect the local avalanche hazard.

    What?

    An avalanche is a mass of snow falling suddenly down any slope greater
than 25 degrees-about the angle of a staircase in your house. There are two
types of avalanches: slab (comprised of cohesive snow) and loose (comprised of
non-cohesive, powdery snow). In each of these the snow can be wet, moist or
dry. Most avalanche accidents involve a dry slab on slopes of 25 to 40
degrees-the angle most attractive to skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers.

    When?

    Unlike other natural hazards such as ice storms, floods and landslides,
avalanches occur frequently throughout the year. While more prominent in the
winter months, avalanches can remain a hazard to mountaineers in the high
alpine over the summer. During the winter, avalanches affect many more people
in many more places, not just those venturing into the backcountry.

    Where?

    Serious avalanche accidents affect most provinces and territories. The
greatest concentrations of accidents are in the mountainous areas of southern
British Columbia and southwestern Alberta, which includes national and
provincial parks. This territory is used extensively for recreation and
contains major corridors for commercial and non-commercial road and rail
traffic. Eastern Canada (especially Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador), and
northern Canada (especially the Yukon and Nunavut) experience similar but
lesser avalanche impacts.

    Be weather wise!

    Environment Canada stresses that individuals should always be "Weather
Aware and Weather Prepared!" This means taking precautionary actions that will
inform you of the potential and/or current risks of severe weather. Before
making a mountainous trek, some things people can do to be weather aware and
prepared:

    - Check the Environment Canada Weatheroffice Web site at
      www.weatheroffice.gc.ca or Weatheradio for current weather warnings and
      forecasts, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
    - Check the Canadian Avalanche Centre's website at www.avalanche.ca
      throughout the winter for current avalanche forecasts
    - Speak with an Environment Canada meteorologist directly by using the
      1-900 user-pay access line (1-900-565-5555 for English and
      1-900-565-4455 for French). The meteorologist will have immediate
      access to detailed and current weather information.


    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:

    Gabor Fricska (English),
    Senior Meteorologist,
    Meteorological Service of Canada, EC/PY
    (250) 491-1517

    Kent Johnson (English and French),
    Manager, National Service Office
    Natural Resources Meteorological Service of Canada, EC/PY
    (250) 491-1532

    Grant Statham,
    Avalanche Risk Specialist, Parks Canada
    (403) 762-1568



                                 BACKGROUNDER

                 Parks Canada avalanche awareness initiatives

    Each year, a tragic number of avalanche fatalities occur in Canada. In the
2002/2003 winter season, eight fatalities occurred within national parks,
including seven Calgary-area students while backcountry skiing at Mt. Cheops
in Glacier National Park of Canada.
    In April 2003, Parks Canada announced an independent panel of experts to
review winter backcountry risk in the mountain national parks. The report
resulted in 36 recommendations, which were accepted by Parks Canada. These 36
recommendations marked a starting point for Parks Canada to make fundamental
improvements to public avalanche safety in Canada.
    In November 2004, Parks Canada unveiled a new avalanche terrain rating
system for 250 backcountry areas commonly used by the public in the mountain
national parks. The first of its kind in the world, the system provides
clear-cut criteria for youth leaders and the public at-large to determine
where it is safe to ski.
    New policies were introduced for custodial groups planning backcountry
travel in the mountain national parks requiring custodial groups, such as
schools, to utilize the services of a certified guide when travelling in
high-risk areas of the backcountry. This new standard of care encourages
custodial groups to travel in suitable locations of the mountain parks, while
at the same time receiving appropriate leadership.
    Parks Canada is making important improvements to public safety in the
backcountry and helping to minimize avalanche fatalities. In addition, Parks
Canada and the Canadian Avalanche Centre have worked together on a number of
initiatives, including developing the Backcountry Avalanche Advisory, an
icon-based public warning system, which provides an easy to understand, basic
graphic warning indication. Most recently, Parks Canada and the Canadian
Avalanche Centre collaborated on The Avaluator, a science-based
decision-making tool for travel in avalanche terrain.
    Through cooperative efforts with the Canadian Avalanche Centre,
improvements to public safety are being felt, not only in the national parks,
but also throughout Canada and around the world. A number of these
Canadian-born initiatives are being implemented around the world, including in
the United States, Switzerland, New Zealand and Sweden.
    Parks Canada operates a full-service avalanche risk control program in the
mountain parks and spends $1.7 million annually on avalanche-related
activities in western Canada, including highway avalanche control and regular
avalanche bulletins in both official languages.
    While there is an inherent degree of risk that cannot be eliminated with
respect to avalanche activity, Parks Canada's overall objective is to ensure
that a comprehensive program is in place so that visitors can use and enjoy
the backcountry in a safe manner.
    




For further information:

For further information: Eric Richer, Office of the Minister of the
Environment, (819) 997-1441; Environment Canada Media Relations, (819)
934-8008, 1-888-908-8008; Mary Clayton, Communications, Canadian Avalanche
Centre, (250) 837-2141 (ext 228); Greg Kingdon, Senior Communications Advisor,
Parks Canada, (403) 292-4540


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