Unregulated snowmobiling terrain makes avalanche training urgent

Ian Tomm, executve director of the Canadian Avalanche Centre, addresses delegates t o the Souther Interior Local Government Association convention, which was held at the Revelstoke Community Foundation Thursday through Saturday. Laura Stovel photo

By Laura Stovel 

British Columbia is one of the last unregulated regions for snowmobiling and that, combined with our spectacular mountains, makes this area a Mecca for snowmobilers, said Ian Tomm, Executive Director of the Canadian Avalanche Centre, speaking at the Southern Interior Local Government Association (SILGA) AGM and Convention on Saturday.

Snowmobiling is banned in several European countries and it is regulated in Alberta. As a result many enthusiasts head to the Revelstoke area to enjoy the sport.  “Nowadays a $10,000 snowmobile can take you almost anywhere with little or no training and so we are seeing a huge increase in fatalities,” Tomm said.

The Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) has been reaching out to train snowmobilers and skiers in avalanche safety. “We want to promote winter tourism – but safely.” The CAC is training around 6,500 people a year, Tomm said.

Snowmobilers are the “single largest source of donations” to the CAC, he said.

The efforts and experience of the CAC has drawn the attention of other countries. Tomm described a youth education program that the Centre piloted that has now been adopted elsewhere in Canada and internationally. Also, “the Norwegian government sent ten people here for two weeks and we’ll likely have people going there,” Tomm said.

Because of these increased demands, the CAC is outgrowing its current building on MacKenzie Avenue. We currently “have people in closets – a couple of people in closets,” Tomm said. The planned Avalanche Centre of Excellence (see ‘Building a Centre of Excellence in Avalanche Safety and Education’) provides a great opportunity to look at creating a larger building.