Community digs deep for avalanche associations 

The first annual fund-raiser for the Canadian Avalanche Association and the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dogs Association raised $4,300.

"It was really the hard-core locals who turned out and that was really great to see especially considering how many other things were going on that night," said organizer John Barber.

The fund-raiser was held at the Longhorn April 18. Attendance was no doubt helped by the raffle and door prizes donated for the event. They included skis, heli-skiing packages, jackets, packs, a free hot tub rental and probes and shovels.

"I was turning prizes down," said Barber of Whistler’s Best Promotions, which has committed to organizing the event for the next five years.

"It was amazing."

The fund-raising came at an important time for the CAA as it works out how to maintain its services following government cutbacks of $37,500 announced last fall.

That money along with another $40,000 from non-public sponsors is used to produce a public avalanche awareness bulletin which alerts anyone who uses the backcountry to current avalanche dangers and conditions across Western Canada.

More than 1,000 people use the site every day during the winter months. Another 1,500 have the information e-mailed to them. Sixty receive the information by fax every time it is updated and 1,800 phone the Revelstoke-based avalanche centre to get updated every season.

Seventy-five per cent of avalanches in Canada occur in B.C., 95 per cent of them are triggered by people, producing an average of 11 or 12 deaths per year.

Eighty per cent of the money raised will go to the CAA, with the balance going to the dogs.

The role of rescue dogs is getting greater recognition as the years go by.

This week Keno, a rescue dog from Fernie, was honoured as one of four Animal Hall of Fame heroes for 2002 at a ceremony in Toronto.

The seven-year-old Labrador retriever got a medal, some new dishes and various treats from sponsor Purina.

His trainer Robin Siggers, the snow-safety supervisor for Fernie, received a portrait of Keno.

The Lab was honoured for saving a Fernie ski lift operator in December 2000. Ryan Radchenko was swept down a mountainside by an avalanche and buried under two meters of snow. He wasn’t wearing a transceiver that day so his only hope was Keno.

When he was needed most Keno came through finding the buried skier in 24 minutes. After being buried for 30 minutes avalanche victims are only given a 50-50 chance of survival.

Radchenko, who was unconscious when found, recovered completely.

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