Mount Washington hosts weekend avalanche training

Giving the right tools and proper training to stay safe in avalanche country

An avalanche awareness event scheduled for Mount Washington Sat., Jan. 14 couldn’t have come at a better time.

The avalanche danger in B.C.’s mountain ranges is considerable to high right now and the recent snow fall has heightened the need to bring the message of safety to the forefront.

Every winter more and more outdoor adventure seekers head up to play in our snow covered mountains but tragically every year people die or are seriously injured from being swept to their deaths in avalanches.

This weekend, avalanche awareness events are being held across the country including up at Mount Washington with information booths as well as avalanche safety clinics.

The Canadian Avalanche Association (CAA) wants to spread the word on how to play safe in the snow and the public is invited to come on up and learn some safety skills.

There will be introductory demos including snow pack analysis, a silent auction, and prize giveaways.

Proceeds from the silent auction go to the CAA and the Vancouver Island Avalanche Centre which provides the Vancouver Island Avalanche Bulletin.

In its ongoing effort to prevent tragedies, the Vancouver Island Avalanche Centre not only offers avalanche courses, but also has several tools to help outdoor enthusiasts plan safe snow excursions including a Beacon Basin at Mount Washington.

The Backcountry Access Beacon Training Park at Mount Washington provides an opportunity for recreationists and pros to practice using their transceivers.

On Saturday, the public is invited to test their beacon finding skills with friends during the beacon race event.

The beacon park which used to be located across from the Whiskey Jack Chair unload area has been relocated to the Whiskey Jack flats in front of the alpine lodge.

Jesse Percival, avalanche forecaster and ski patrol director for Mount Washington said it’s an awesome education tool that features a number of permanently buried transmitters.

The beacon park is a great way to practice transceiver skills because you can do multiple searches in one area and Percival said they will probably keep it in the Whiskey Jack Flats permanently.  He said Saturday’s events will be a fun way to promote avalanche safety and although Maddy, Vancouver Island’s only Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association (CARDA) dog has retired, she will be on hand doing rescue demonstrations.

Percival said they want to convey the message that people shouldn’t duck the boundary ropes and gates because they increase their risk of getting hurt.  He said people looking for untouched powder have other safer options.

“People can access the terrain in a safer manner.  We provide access points through designated gates but people still need to have the right tools and proper training,” he stated.

He said on Saturday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. there will be avalanche professionals and volunteers demonstrating the use of probes and shoveling techniques. He said they are just introductory demos and the idea is to get people interested in taking courses.

“In the past a lot of young people hung out for the day and had fun with it.”

Also taking place at Mount Washington is the Kokanee Winter Festival which includes the elusive Sasquatch.

For more information on all events go to