museum 

Twenty-five years ago, after being buried in an avalanche on Whistler Mountain, Bruce Watt and other members of the Whistler Mountain Ski Patrol decided it was time to get serious and create a Whistler Search and Rescue organization. "Chris Stetham and I were the avalanche forecasters for the mountain," Watt recalls. "We had a National Research Council station there and we thought we knew what we were doing." But after the avalanche buried Watt and another skier in what the forecasters thought were safe conditions, Watt concluded that, "Basically the avalanche doesn’t know you’re an expert." That avalanche was the impetus for founding Whistler Search and Rescue. Last week, as part of National Heritage Week, the Whistler Museum and Archives Society unveiled new space in the museum which will house exhibits of Whistler Search and Rescue’s 25 years in the valley. Watt’s primary effort in Whistler Search and Rescue has, from the beginning, been in the area of avalanche rescue dogs. "We had Pieps (radio transceivers for locating people buried in avalanches), but it was proven that dogs were better at finding people," Watt says. Whistler Mountain supported Watt and his dog Radar in their efforts to become the first certified avalanche rescue dog/handler team in Whistler. A photograph of the two of them riding the Blue Chair is part of the display in the new museum space. Watts’ efforts over the years have led to establishment of a local chapter of the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association. Today there are eight handler/dog teams in the Whistler area, all of which are members of Whistler Search and Rescue. There are about 13 core members of Whistler Search and Rescue and, as RCMP Const. Ross Genge noted at last week’s museum announcement, all Search and Rescue members are volunteers — a point sometimes lost on people who go missing and expect Search and Rescue members to find them because it’s part of their "job." The "new" museum space which will house Search and Rescue exhibits this year is actually another trailer within the existing block of trailers which has finally been turned over to the museum. In addition to the Search and Rescue displays it provides room for lectures and research. o o o Ellen Lanchester is the Museum and Archives Society’s Volunteer of the Year. Lanchester has been the Society’s book keeper for the past several years.

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