Longhorn, Barber helping avalanche association with fund-raiser 

Just about everyone in Whistler has been affected by avalanches.

That’s why holding an annual fund-raiser for the cash strapped Canadian Avalanche Association just makes sense, said John Barber.

"Avalanches are very much part of our community," said Barber of Whistler’s Best Promotions.

"I just had a friend buried up to his neck on Piccolo."

Part of the proceeds of the fund-raiser will be shared with the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dogs Association.

The first annual event will be held April 18, starting at 7 p.m. at the Longhorn.

"It will be an informal saloon dinner – that’s just a fancy way to say there will be wings," quipped Barber.

"And this wouldn’t be happening without (Longhorn manager) Norm Strim and the support of the Longhorn. Over the last three weeks he has managed to essentially get all the food and beverages organized."

The Longhorn will host the event this year and next. Barber has committed to organizing it for the next five years.

Tickets are available at the Longhorn for $25. Door prizes, DJ music, and beverages will also be part of the fun.

"This is something we are very grateful for," said Evan Manners of the CAA.

"We really appreciate it. Certainly we managed to survive the period of mid-winter just through efforts such as this where we saw individuals and groups and sometimes employees getting together and giving $25 or $50 or at times, if was a large group, $1,000.

"It went a long way to keeping our programs alive.

"This is another case where the users are willing to demonstrate that they will foot some of the costs.

"They know it is a good service but we also know that it is not going to be something that we can pay for entirely with the efforts of smaller groups. We do need some help from the provincial government."

So far the CAA has heard nothing form the provincial government about funding next year.

The Whistler fund-raiser is being held during the annual World Ski and Snowboard Festival. Barber, the lead organizer, is hopeful that people looking for somewhere to have dinner will come by to support a good cause and they enjoy some of the other events associated with the festival.

And he is hoping for more than a great turnout.

He wants other ski towns and organizations, which use the backcountry to get on the bandwagon and hold fund-raisers of their own.

"What I want to do is drop the gauntlet to other ski towns and snowmobile organizations," said Barber.

"We want to spread the word and get other people involved."

The fund-raising comes at an important time for the CAA as it works on 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, resulting in an average of 11 or 12 deaths per year.

Last month Mountain Equipment Co-op stepped in and offered a donation of $25,000 each year for the next two years, which will allow the CAA to post a Saturday bulletin in addition to the usual Monday and Thursday ones.

If you want to participate in the Whistler fund-raiser call John Barber at 604-932-1822, or contact Norm Strim at the Longhorn at 604-932-5999

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