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Know Before You Go: Staying Alive In The Backcountry

Revelstoke’s famous around the world for our big mountains, backcountry, and deep powder snow. Newcomers to Revelstoke — even those with many years of skiing or snowboarding experience in tamer snow climates — soon discover the backcountry experience here is on a whole other level. But with the rewards come risks. Far too often, newcomers are injured or killed in backcountry mishaps involving avalanches. And the big risks can start just a few turns past the boundary ropes. There’s a reason why Avalanche Canada — Canada’s national public avalanche safety organization — is based right here.

On Monday, November 23, Avalanche Canada and Revelstoke Mountain Resort are co-hosting Staying Alive, a free evening avalanche education presentation that’s tailored for those new to the big mountain/deep snow mix that Revelstoke has to offer. And with all the recent snow and stoke, it couldn’t be more timely.

Avalanche Canada
Empower yourself to get out there safely. For a newcomer to the big mountains and deep snow, the free Staying Alive evening on Nov. 23 is a great first step. Photo: Marty Schaffer

The evening features big names in the local backcountry scene — including sought-after pro skiers and mountain guides who get paid to ride for videos, magazines or guide visiting skiers at top heliskiing destinations. They’ve got lifetimes of backcountry experience between them, and they will share it with you for free at Staying Alive.

Avalanche Canada Education and Outreach Coordinator Nancy Geismar explains the origin of the event: “Many young, transient workers come to experience the magnificent snow of western Canada, and this event is meant as a primer to open their eyes and give them some knowledge to be safe.”

The three-hour workshop features many top names:

Marty Schaffer is a young Revelstoke native who grew up with his family’s backcountry lodge, and has moved on into the guiding world, where he co-founded CAPOW! Canadian Powder Guiding company, amongst other work.

Get into the steep and really deep, and learn how to do it safely.
Get into the steep and really deep, and learn the first steps towards doing it safely at Avalanche Canada’s Nov. 23 Staying Alive presentation. Photo: Bruno Long

Al Roberts of CARDA — the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association — is there to explain what they do, and how you need to be prepared as well.

Parks Canada’s Zuzana Driediger is an avalanche rescue dog pioneer in the Revelstoke area, and has many years of volunteer Search & Rescue experience. She’ll share tips on how the Parks Canada backcountry program works, including how to avoid no-go areas closed because of avalanche artillery shelling or animal habitat closures.

Ski mountaineer Greg Hill is famous for his superman feats of endurance in the mountains, and has spent a lifetime pushing his personal limits in risky alpine environments around the world. That takes finely honed decision-making abilities, and Greg and the team are there to help empower your journey towards understanding the choices you’ll face.

Pro skier Leah Evans sold out the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre earlier this month during the screening of ski film Jumbo Wild. The film was supported by her sponsor Patagonia, and featured Evans skiing big mountains in the Purcells. She runs the popular Girls Do Ski camps.

Avalanche Canada’s Grant Helgeson is there to show you the amazing world of resources available through the Avalanche safety and forecasting organization, including a wealth of real-time information online. Learn where to find the forecasts and how to read them.

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Avalanche Canada and Revelstoke Mountain Resort present: Staying Alive – taking place at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre on Monday, Nov. 23 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Don’t miss out on this valuable primer, and a great chance to meet some new touring partners for the upcoming season.

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What’s new for Avalanche Canada this season?

Avalanche Canada spokesperson Mary Clayton said the new Mountain Information Network (MIN) is a new focus this season. The MIN is a feature on the Avalanche Canada app that allows you to file reports from the field, which are then geotagged to your location. You can add photos, select snow and skiing conditions from dropdown menus, and add your own comments.

“When you submit it’s geotagged and it will pop up on our main app, as soon as you submit,” Clayton said. “Other people can just click on that and see what’s going on up there.”

Clayton said Avalanche Canada has high hopes for the system, which was soft-launched last season. It allows for real-time reporting of events, such as avalanche incidents. It also provides more information for Avalanche Canada forecasters.

“We’re excited about its potential, especially in data sparse areas,” Clayton said. “For our Avalanche Canada forecasters it’s going to be terrific.”

It’s already had an impact in an early season avalanche incident in Glacier National Park.

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