Avalanche Awareness - Know Before You Go.

Posted On
March 3, 2024
Written By
Tereza M / Lexi D

Avalanche Awareness

We reside in a captivating country abundant with outdoor possibilities and thrilling activities. When engaging in more adventurous pursuits, it becomes crucial to understand how to respond to unforeseen situations and acknowledge the supremacy of nature. 

Let's Dive into Avalanche Awareness. Whether you're a backcountry skier, splitboarder, cross-country skier, or a winter hiker, the onus of responsibility lies with you for the decisions made. It is imperative for everyone engaged in winter activities to be well-versed in potential risks and consistently prioritize the prevention of catastrophes.

Photo by: Nicolas Cool, unsplash.com

Even winter hikers, despite perhaps engaging in less extreme activities, should maintain a keen awareness of their surroundings in winter conditions. Prior to embarking on any winter adventure, checking avalanche warnings becomes a non-negotiable step in ensuring a safe and informed journey. Being proactive in understanding the risks associated with avalanches is not just a matter of personal safety but also a responsible approach towards safeguarding oneself and others in the winter environment.

Photo by: Johannes Waibel, unsplash.com

Keeping it straightforward is key when it comes to Avalanche Awareness. Before embarking on any adventure, make it a habit to check the avalanche conditions for your chosen area on https://www.avalanche.ca/en/map. This simple step, which provides easily understandable information, can be the difference between life and death, both for yourself and others.

Crucially, avoid venturing into the winter wilderness alone. In regions where cell service is unreliable, having companions ensures a safety net for all involved. Remember, some days pose higher risks than others, but acquiring knowledge about avalanches empowers you to make informed decisions on when, where, and how to explore the backcountry safely.

It's vital to recognize that backcountry touring is a distinct experience from skiing at resorts. Ski resorts have dedicated ski patrols ensuring safety by minimising avalanche risks. The backcountry, on the other hand, requires an individual commitment to understanding and mitigating potential hazards.

Splitboard Photo by: Tereza M

Avalanches are a potential threat in any location with sufficiently steep terrain. The likelihood of avalanches increases after heavy snowfall, windy conditions, or when there are avalanche warnings. Notably, the majority of avalanches are triggered by individuals themselves, emphasizing the need for caution and awareness.

There are discernible warning signs for avalanches that individuals should be able to recognize. If you observe or hear any of these signs, the safest course of action is to refrain from entering the area. It's crucial to note that the  absence of these signs doesn't guarantee avalanche safety.

One clear indicator of unstable snow is the presence of cracks forming beneath your weight. If you come across recent avalanche activity, it serves as another unmistakable sign of unstable terrain.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO (as provided by Parks Canada )

  • Does your group have the skills, knowledge and training to travel in avalanche terrain?
  • Are you carrying transceivers, shovels and probes?
  • Can you self-rescue? Do you have a plan?
  • Do you know the emergency number?
  • Have you checked the current avalanche forecast and weather forecast ?
  • Have you checked out with someone?
  • Do you have any other route options?

Emergency Phone Numbers: 911 / Satellite Phone: 780-852-3100

Understanding an avalanche forecast is vital for gauging the potential risk. The forecast considers factors such as the region, snowpack, wind conditions, and weather forecasts. A comprehensive avalanche terrain exposure scale, indicating the likelihood of avalanches, can be found on avalanche.ca and Parks Canada providing valuable information for those planning backcountry activities. Always consult this resource before heading into potentially hazardous terrain.

If you are an enthusiastic adventure seeker eager to delve into backcountry skiing but lack the necessary experience, here's a valuable tip for you. Consider enrolling in an Avalanche Skills Training (AST) course, specifically designed for beginners. Course are offered by Avalanche Canada or Yumnuska Mountain Adventures These courses offer a wealth of interesting and crucial knowledge essential for safely pursuing your newfound hobby. Start with an online tutorial, Avy Savvy, before taking an Avalanche Canada Training course.


Participating in an AST course equips you with the skills and awareness required to navigate the challenges of backcountry terrain. Whether you're an aspiring backcountry skier or someone seeking to enhance their knowledge of avalanche safety, these courses provide a solid foundation.

For more details on available training, you can visit avalanche.ca, where you'll find comprehensive information about Avalanche Skills Training courses tailored for beginners. It's a proactive step towards enjoying your adventurous pursuits responsibly and with the necessary expertise.

More information may be found at Avalanche Canada   Parks Canada  and Yumnuska Mountain Adventures Websites

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