Timing right for Avalanche Awareness 

Trudeaus on hand at Mt. Seymour Friday

During the three days leading up to Jan. 12, Whistler-Blackcomb received 44 cm of snow — most of it in the light, fluffy “goose-down” variety, which is perfect for skiers and snowboarders.

However, the light snow covering stiff slabs of snow has increased the mid-mountain base dramatically during the last 10 days, to 234 cm as of Jan. 12, and that makes the high alpine skiing in-bounds and in Whistler’s backcountry much more unpredictable. It also makes this weekend’s Avalanche Awareness Days in B.C. a perfect time to gather information about the dangers of avalanches.

The public can become more knowledgeable at most of B.C. ski resorts and ski hills Jan. 14-16, including at the base of Whistler-Blackcomb where the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association (CARDA) will set up a demonstration tent Saturday. In addition, a demo-tent will be set up near the Guest Satisfaction Centre at the Whistler Lightboard area the same day, says Nadine Nesbitt, a senior ski patroller for the mountains who’s in charge of public education on avalanche safety.

“The public will get a chance to see how a transceiver works on Whistler Mountain,” Nesbitt said. “And there’ll be ski patrollers walking through there all day in case people have questions. I think there will be a doggy demonstration there too.”

The main event for Avalanche Awareness Days will take place at Mount Seymour in North Vancouver, where several organizations will be demonstrating various tactics of search and rescue. The Canadian Avalanche Association has asked Margaret Kemper-Trudeau and Justin Trudeau to be on hand as guest speakers Friday. The BC Snowmobile Association, BC Parks and Canada West Ski Areas Association will also be on hand for demonstrations and to answer questions about recreational avalanche awareness.

Josianne Wilson, who represents CAA as a publics relations consultant with the firm Shandwick, says Justin Trudeau will assist CAA with an avalanche rescue demonstration using dogs from CARDA.

“He’s taken the course and knows how to do it,” Wilson said Wednesday. “The goal for Friday is not only to raise awareness, but to also raise funds for the CAA web-site, so they can up-date it everyday. It’s a huge job.”

Justin, 28, lost his brother Michel Trudeau Nov. 18, 1998, in an avalanche that occurred while he and some friends attempted to ski a steep traverse on a slope above Kokanee Lake in south-eastern B.C.

“My mother was the founding member of the Canadian Avalanche Foundation, which started about six months ago,” said the elder son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau when contacted Wednesday at West Point Grey Senior Academy in Vancouver. “And yes, it was a result of the death of my brother. We decided that, after seeing the machine that went in motion when my brother was caught in the avalanche, and that most of the groups were underfunded, that a foundation should be started to raise money for them. The reason the main media event is at Seymour is because of accessibility. Next year we’re hoping to have it at Whistler.”

Justin said that years ago, a young Michel Trudeau was a lifty for Whistler-Blackcomb, and after visiting him here, Justin, 28, became a snowboard instructor for Blackcomb Mountain. After the mountains merged, he went on to teach in The Whistler Kids programs and now teaches every weekend for Ride Tribe on Whistler Mountain.

“I come up on most weekends,” Trudeau said. At the moment, Trudeau is in his second year of teaching high school language courses at West Point Grey. His mother still lives in Ottawa.

Although the CAA web-site ( www.avalanche.ca), is currently updated only three or four times a week, its coverage of B.C.’s backcountry ski areas is comprehensive, and the Environment Canada satellite image centre is linked directly to the site, providing hourly pictures of B.C.’s weather, in addition to weather forecasts. It also provides ski touring and snowmobiling trip planning information. Several categories in the CAA web-site cover everything imaginable as far as backcountry recreation is concerned.

To contribute funds to the CAA’s web-site, contact the main office in Revelstoke at (250) 837-2935, or get on their web-site to e-mail inquiries regarding donations.

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