With the announcement of a $10-million grant from the Government of B.C. for Avalanche Canada, comes a new chapter in public avalanche safety for Vancouver Island.
For 14 years, the volunteer-run Vancouver Island Avalanche Centre Society (VIACS) has provided winter backcountry users with a regular avalanche forecast. Over the years, VIACS ran a popular website, grew its social media followers, and hosted numerous fundraising events in support of its public safety services.
But even with deep commitment and strong support from the community, maintaining a public avalanche safety program is challenging for a small society.
“A tremendous amount of volunteer time and energy is required to provide this service,” VIACS president Ryan Shelly said in a news release. “Backcountry use is growing so quickly, our funding model does not allow for the kind of program demanded by the levels of recreation we’re seeing on the island, let alone accommodate for further growth.”
With the new provincial grant, Avalanche Canada can expand its forecasting program to Vancouver Island.
“We are very happy to now have the funding to provide this service,” said Gilles Valade, executive director of Avalanche Canada. “Our priority is stability. We never want to introduce a regional program and then have to curtail it after a few years. We needed to know we could support a long-term commitment.”
In November, Avalanche Canada will begin publishing a regular forecast for Vancouver Island. Backcountry users will receive a full slate of avalanche safety information, delivered on the avalanche.ca website and Avalanche Canada’s mobile app.
“Speaking on behalf of the VIACS board, we are very proud of the work we’ve done for our community,” Shelly said. “In B.C., reliable and accurate avalanche forecasts are an essential service. VIACS played a crucial role here on Vancouver Island. We are pleased that Avalanche Canada can now build on the solid foundation we’ve created.”