Avalanche Canada introduces new forecasting model, says it’s easier to use

A screenshot showing Avalanche Canada’s new forecast map. Avalanche Canada

Heading into the backcountry?

Avalanche Canada says it has a new forecasting system that outdoor enthusiasts will find easier to use.

The new model will group areas that have similar avalanche conditions, along with giving users relevant information.

Click to play video: 'New avalanche forecast system unveiled'
New avalanche forecast system unveiled

“This new system allows our forecasts to more accurately reflect backcountry conditions,” Avalanche Canada says on its website.

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“Our regions are now determined by the avalanche conditions. We’ve made these changes to tackle one of our biggest problems with our old system, where conditions would often vary significantly across some of our larger regions.”

The non-profit organization says around 10 people die every year in B.C. from avalanches.

“They’re a serious risk for anyone who’s travelling in the backcountry in winter,” said avalanche forecaster Simon Horton.

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Nanaimo teen being hailed a hero after rescuing woman buried in avalanche

Avalanche Canada says this is what’s new:

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  • The homepage map will have a new search feature.
  • Each forecast region is coloured to reflect its highest danger rating.
  • The forecast will feature boundaries that change in response to conditions.
  • There will no longer be fixed forecast regions or region names.
  • Forecasters will determine regional boundaries every day.

“At times, you might see regions of the same colour separated into different forecasts,” says Avalanche Canada.

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“This means the highest danger rating is the same across these two regions, but the avalanche problems are different.”

Click to play video: '3 mountaineers found dead after avalanche in Banff National Park'
3 mountaineers found dead after avalanche in Banff National Park

The keystone in Avalanche Canada’s new flexible forecast models are areas called subregions.

Those 92 subregions won’t be found on the map, but Avalanche Canada says forecasters will group subregions with similar conditions to create a forecast region.

In making the switch, Avalanche Canada says it did so because they would often see significant variations in its prior 16 fixed regions.

“Applying one forecast to a region that had big differences within its boundaries was a communication challenge,” says Avalanche Canada. “This new system enables us to provide more accurate forecasts when weather cycles impact some areas but not others.

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Highway camera images show aftermath of Trans-Canada avalanche

“Now, our forecasters can more effectively communicate that variability. Also, the new search bar feature makes it easier for users to determine which forecast regions are applicable to them.”

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Horton says while avalanche forecasts are important, outdoor enthusiasts should enroll in an avalanche safety course prior to heading into the backcountry.

“The avalanche safety training level 1 gives you basic tips on how to identify avalanche terrain,” said Horton, “how to use the forecast to make a trip plan as well as how to perform a rescue in case someone gets caught by an avalanche.”

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