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November 23rd, 2018
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Avalanche Canada Receives Funding of $25M from Federal Government

Avalanche Canada has announced that it will receive some much needed funding from the Government of Canada. Less than a week after Avalanche Canada revealed that the organization was in desperate need of funding to the point that it would have to start cutting programs, the federal government has stepped in with the announcement at the fall update. The funding is promised to be a one-time endowment of $25 million dollars, a major boon for the organization that has typically run on a very tight budget of around $2 million per year.

Here is an update from Avalanche Canada Executive Director, Gilles Valade. Below is the original press release from Avalanche Canada.

Boost of $25M from Federal Gov't

We, along with everyone who enjoys Canada’s winter backcountry, received some great news last week when the federal government announced a one-time endowment of $25 million to Avalanche Canada. We wanted to give you, our stakeholders, some background on the announcement and a look at how we see this affecting the future of our programs, both immediate and long-term.

This funding announcement is the culmination of a two-year journey. In 2016, we recognized we were approaching a tipping point; the rapid growth of winter backcountry use was showing no sign of slowing down, while our funding—government and private—was not keeping up. We began working with Avalanche Québec on a proposal to the federal government with this primary message: Without a national strategy that includes predictable, long-term funding, we will see regional and system-wide failures in public avalanche safety.

The proposal outlined what a truly national public avalanche safety system would look like in Canada. We defined the successes and identified the many significant gaps in the current program. We also compared how avalanche safety is funded in some other alpine countries, all of which have much smaller forecasting programs.

We were very happy to learn our proposal had met with success. Last week’s announcement provides us with much-needed stability, relieves our immediate concerns and will help us build for the future. However, at this point, we have no information on how this money will be delivered. We do know we won’t see it until the end of March; we don’t know what a “one-time endowment” entails in terms of spending timelines or other conditions or obligations. Regardless, we will continue to exercise the same kind of disciplined financial decision-making that has allowed us to become a world-leader in our field.

Moving forward, we intend to leverage this endowment with provincial and territorial governments. The vision we presented in our proposal would bring our successful programs and services to every region in Canada that needs it—making Avalanche Canada a truly national organization, funded by all levels of government. We have also reached out to our many sponsors, encouraging them to continue their support of and commitment to public avalanche safety.

Our first priority is to shore up and stabilize our current programs; users shouldn’t expect any significant changes this season. Once we have a better idea of how this new funding is structured, we’ll be able to say with more certainty where expanded or new services will be offered and what those services will look like. That said, we do have a general list of priorities:

  • The most acute need we’ve identified is in the North Rockies and that will likely be our starting point. Our goal there is to provide users with a regular regional forecast, which will require field teams, similar to our South Rockies program.
  • We want to significantly improve existing programs for backcountry users in the Yukon and Newfoundland & Labrador. We’ve been providing both regions with basic services for a number of years so it will be great to be able to ramp up those programs.
  • Vancouver Island has been identified as needing improved services. We have been liaising with the Vancouver Island Avalanche Centre and will continue to work with them as we move forward.
  • We want to increase our research, development and innovation capacity so we can continue to work on things like snowpack modeling, decision-making apps, online decision aids and terrain rating. Our forecasting software is in the middle of a three-year upgrading project and it would be great to add some increased functionality to that product.
  • As a truly national program, we will need to ensure our forecasts are offered in both official languages.

We are very grateful for this investment from the federal government. We are looking forward to working with the provinces of BC, Alberta and Québec, along with the Yukon Territory, to ensure this funding announcement is the beginning of long-term sustainability for public avalanche safety in Canada.

 

– Gilles Valade, Executive Director

Avalanche Canada Press Release – Nov 22, 2018

(Revelstoke, BC) November 22, 2018 – Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau delivered some good news to winter backcountry recreationists recently. His fall economic statement, presented in Ottawa on Wednesday, Nov 21, included a one-time endowment of $25 million to Avalanche Canada.

“We are very grateful for this funding, and especially for the recognition that public avalanche safety is worthy of support,” said Gilles Valade, Executive Director of Avalanche Canada. “The federal government has made a significant commitment to this cause. We hope the provinces involved in avalanche safety are able to follow this lead.”

Avalanche Canada is non-profit and non-government; it was established in 2004 to be the national public avalanche safety organization. Avalanche Canada: 

  • Provides daily public avalanche forecasts for many of the mountainous regions of western Canada. In terms of area, this is the largest avalanche forecasting program in the world by far.
  • Develops and coordinates public avalanche safety education.
  • Delivers youth awareness and training seminars.
  • Creates and delivers avalanche safety programs for specific user groups.
  • Contributes to snow safety research.
We are very grateful for this funding, and especially for the recognition that public avalanche safety is worthy of support.
- Gilles Valade

Winter backcountry use in Canada continues to grow with no sign of slowing down. Despite the massive increase in use, the average number of avalanche fatalities in Canada has declined and stabilized over the past 14 years. Avalanche Canada’s programs and services provide an invaluable “safety net” for winter tourism in mountainous regions.

“Avalanche Canada has world-leading programs and we are pleased that we are now starting to be funded as world leaders,” adds Valade. “We are grateful to Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government for leading the way. We look forward to working with the provinces to ensure this funding announcement is the beginning of long-term sustainability for public avalanche safety.”