The Canadian Government Invests $25 Million in Avalanche Safety
Regardless of your feelings about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he deserves a bit of credit for this: The Canadian federal government pledged a one-time endowment of $25 million to Avalanche Canada, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving avalanche awareness and safety. Avalanche safety is important to the prime minister: He lost his brother in an avalanche in 1998 while skiing in B.C.’s Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park.
The Revelstoke, B.C.-based nonprofit previously operated on a budget of $2 million a year, which, according to Mary Clayton with Avalanche Canada, was not enough to handle the increase in backcountry use. “We reached a tipping point, and we were at a point where we were going to have to cut services unless we could do something about our resources, so this is going to make a big difference,” Clayton said in an article by the CBC.
The money will go to underserved areas like Quebec, northern B.C., Newfoundland, and the Yukon. (B.C. and Alberta have appropriately received most of the resources in the past.)
Avalanche Canada was founded in 2004 in response to the deaths of 29 people in 2002-2003, seven of whom were high school students. Since its inception, avalanche fatalities have held steady at an average of 12 per year. The organization provides daily forecasts for an area that’s larger than the entire United Kingdom.
The U.S., by comparison, has 14 organizations that provide forecasting, most of which are part of the National Avalanche Center. The NAC receives a combination of government and private funding for a total of $5 million per year, and they cover an area of similar size to that of Avalanche Canada. Which leads us to wonder, will the U.S. will step up to the plate? We’re not holding our breath.