Canadian Avalanche Centre debuts new tool 

Free Smartphone application allows anyone to share and see avalanche information

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A picture truly is worth a thousand words and the Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) is planning to use photos to help reduce avalanche fatalities.

The CAC launched a new program last week called the Observer Network. Backcountry users are being encouraged to become part of the network by uploading backcountry photos and comments for other backcountry users to see and use.

Ilya Storm, the field programs manager with the CAC's public avalanche warning service, and her agency based in Revelstoke, are putting the information they get from the backcountry into a CAC mobile smartphone application.

"We're looking forward to receiving images of avalanches, precipitation, cornice build-up, wind action, just about anything that helps us verify our forecasts and improves our understanding of local conditions," Storm said through a news release announcing the new program.

Photos uploaded to the system will be geo-tagged and pinpointed then made available for everyone to see.

"The Observer Network will be another great tool for us to communicate with backcountry users," said Storm. "We're looking forward to seeing its use grow and adding to a conversation that will improve everyone's understanding of current conditions, which can translate into making better decisions in the field."

The CAC executive director, Gilles Valade, believes the new tool will help reduce the risk associated with backcountry travel.

"Anything that helps us provide better information for people I think is a good thing," said Valade. "We're hoping it's going to help save lives."

He said the CAC provides people with information that helps them make an informed decision. When the new smartphone app is used in conjunction with avalanche training, forecast analysis and tools like transceivers, probes and shovels, backcountry users are better protected, said Valade.

"By them (backcountry users) being able to make an informed decision it's going to help prevent incidents and therefore fatalities," he said.

The free app is available through Google Play and the Apple Store.

According to Whistler Blackcomb, the avalanche danger risk for Thursday, Feb. 13 is at "considerable" for areas above the treeline. New snow this week has fallen onto old, hard surfaces. The WB avalanche information page indicated earlier this week that several size one soft slabs were triggered within the ski area with ski cuts and natural triggering.

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