Words by Jill Macdonald. Photos by Angela Percival.
Winter is in full swing and with every snowfall comes the urge to get out there. Whether it’s touring off the ski hill or out in the backcountry, there are tools to support safe travel through avalanche terrain.
“All information is just pieces of the puzzle.” Marc Piché is Technical Director for the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG). “You assemble a conglomeration of all the data that you can, apply it to the conditions at hand, and make the safest decision possible.” This means checking the local avalanche bulletin, weather forecast and reliable reports from knowledgeable people who have recently been in the area.
Mountain Conditions Report (MCR) is just that: a public platform that permits professional guides to share relevant information. In partnership with the ACMG, Arc’teryx hosts the MCR website and MCR App. It has been operational for decades, but recently relaunched to broaden its reach to the general public. “The Canadian guiding culture is very much about sharing. We want to learn from each other’s experiences. Sharing helps everyone make informed decisions and prevent incidents.”
Safe travel begins with training:
Educate yourself on terrain choices: Take an avalanche course
Have the proper rescue equipment and know how to use it
Understand the implications of aspect, elevation and terrain features
Pay attention to changing conditions, constantly
Piché stresses that: “Information needs interpretation. No one thing is the answer.” Guides are used to making quick assessments of complex sets of data, along with the human element. “If you get out there and it’s windy with poor visibility, the snow profile is only part of the entire picture. Be realistic about yourself and the skills of your group.”
Travel with more experienced people
Put in the time
Consider a guided experience
Assuming responsibility is only one aspect of a guide/client relationship. Guides are mentors, they will help you increase your confidence and ability to learn on your own. Together, you can work on decision making skills, terrain selection, and progress your overall skills. All of this increases your autonomy.
At the end of the day, being safe while being in the mountains is the goal. Guides are here to help – add the MCR to your toolbox, and use it to support informed decision making.
Check out the Mountain Conditions Report:
Download the app: