Mountain Information Network - Your One Stop Shop for Conditions Information
Curtis Pawliuk | On 23, Dec 2017
Where is the best snow to ride today? Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a one-stop shop that could provide the most up-to-date information on snowpack, snow quality, avalanche and weather info? A resource with photos of the riding conditions from the people who were there just the day before? I’m talking about a no BS, no attitude look at what matters most…the snow. Well, it exists and it’s called the Mountain Information Network, from Avalanche Canada. But it only works if enough riders contribute information, and so far that isn’t really happening.
Mountain Information Network
The Mountain Information Network (MIN) is the source for real-time, location-specific information on riding conditions…or it could be. Here’s the caveat. The MIN is a user-driven platform that relies on the participation of the public to reach its full potential. To be honest, after three years of existence, I am surprised at the lack of participation by the majority of the recreational users. My feeling is that the uptake could be much better.
Without buy-in and participation from recreational users, the Mountain Information Network doesn’t work to its full potential. Here’s a scenario of life without MIN:
As a sledder living in the middle of three major mountain snowmobiling communities, the decision on where to ride for the day can be a bit challenging…I know, boo hoo right? But no matter if you make three trips to the mountains a season or 50, each day of riding is just as important as the next. You want to make the best of each day.
So every morning I wake up and take long gaze out my bedroom window (south), then I’ll slowly make my way over to the kitchen window (north). The next step is to grab a cup of coffee and sit down at my computer. This isn’t all about safety; this is about the best snow and how to find it.
Social media, chat forums and the local rumour mill all have their place in the sharing of conditions information, but honestly—time is limited, and I want concise, clear data. When I go looking for beta, I want to spend as little time as possible in front of a screen. When I’m looking for conditions information, I want quality—not quantity.
So what exactly is the Mountain Information Network?
Well, I took this little explanation right from the Avalanche Canada website:
“The Mountain Information Network is a free service for sharing information about riding, avalanche, snowpack, and weather conditions as well as incidents in real time. Posts are not moderated and go live as soon as they are submitted, or, if you’re offline, as soon as a connection is obtained. You can post and view information online at www.avalanche.ca or with the Avalanche Canada app on your iOS or Android device.”
The Mountain Information Network could be the best new tool available to mountain riders in a long time. We all want to know where the snow is and how it’s behaving. The MIN could be an incredibly valuable decision-making tool. But yes, it does require a few minutes of your precious time to get involved.
On any given day of the week in my neck of the woods, it’s very likely that there are at least 100 people riding between the communities of McBride, Valemount and Blue River. Yet, not even one percent of these riders regularly submit their daily observations to the MIN—and that’s a conservative estimate. On an average Saturday, there are likely more than 1000 riders in these three destinations. Yet I continually look at the MIN and find very little reporting going on.
Anyone Can Submit, Regardless of Training or Experience
The MIN was created so that everyone can submit data. It doesn’t require you to be a snow geek. The Quick Report on the mobile app was carefully designed to allow riders to share valuable and pertinent data, regardless of their level of training or experience.
Answering questions in the Quick Report option is as simple as a few clicks. That alone can provide information about snowpack conditions, weather and avalanche activity. And by simply adding a photo or two along with some comments, the Quick Report becomes a fast, efficient and effective way to share conditions information with your fellow riders.
The MIN helps riders in more ways than one
Forecasters at Avalanche Canada can also use your submitted data to get a good picture of local conditions in your area. This helps in a much bigger way than you may think. Regions such as Northern BC are known as “data sparse”. This means that there is no daily information submitted by professional or industrial operations, like happens in busier parts of BC. This results in little or no ability for forecasters to provide reports, bulletins or snowpack advice in these quiet regions.
While some regions may be quiet in formal activity, there is a large recreational group out there. Those users could be providing daily information via the MIN—which would benefit so many others—but we are not seeing it.
Let’s see the full potential of the Mountain Information Network
We all want to be smarter, more prepared backcountry users. Up-to-date, firsthand snowpack and weather data can be valuable to so many people in so many ways. It’s not just about avalanche safety; it’s also about knowing where to find good snow to ride.
Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a handful of riders or more submit riding data every day they are out? In a perfect world, reporting on the Mountain Information Network at the end of the riding day will become as routine as uploading to your Instagram account. It’s as simple as a few clicks of your time. Be part of the change!
Curtis Pawliuk is the owner/operator of Frozen Pirate Snow Services and the general manager of the Valemount and Area Recreation Development Association.