Avalanche Canada - Vancouver Island - Michael Conlan
Photo by Michael Conlan/Avalanche Canada

Avalanche Canada says they will soon be offering a regular forecast for Vancouver Island, thanks to funding from a new provincial grant.

The volunteer-run Vancouver Island Avalanche Centre Society (VIACS) has provided local winter backcountry users updates on avalanche hazards for 14 years.

However, Avalanche Canada, the national body which oversees public safety for avalanches, says that despite VIACS volunteers growing a large following online, it proved challenging to maintain a safety program with a small society.

“A tremendous amount of volunteer time and energy is required to provide this service,” said Ryan Shelly, President of VIACS.

“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 injection of $10 million in the form of a provincial grant, however, Avalanche Canada says they will now be bringing VIACS into the fold as part of their national forecasting program.

Starting in November, avalanche forecasts will be regularly published for Vancouver Island through Avalanche Canada.

“We are very happy to now have the funding to provide this service,” says 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.”

Backcountry users on Vancouver Island will be able to access a full slate of safety information through 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 BC, 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.”

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