Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Skiers ride a chair lift up the mountain at Catedral Alta Patagonia, a ski resort located about 10 miles from the resort town of San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. Canadian extreme skier Jean-Philippe Auclair been killed in an avalanche along with friend Andreas Fransson of Sweden, U.S. professional snowboarder Liz Daley had been buried under snow and found dead in a separate avalanche. All three fatalities happened Monday in the Patagonia Mountains near the Chile-Argentina border.

JEAN LEE/Associated Press

They opened the conference with a moment of silence. For the 800 who attended the International Snow Science Workshop in Banff, it was a hurtful start to the day.

Not only had Canadian extreme skier Jean-Philippe Auclair been killed in an avalanche along with friend Andreas Fransson of Sweden, U.S. professional snowboarder Liz Daley had been buried under snow and found dead in a separate avalanche. All three fatalities happened Monday in the Patagonia Mountains near the Chile-Argentina border.

That three athletic talents could be wiped away so quickly was a grim reminder of why the ISSW was formed in 1976, and why it convened in Banff last week – to discuss all things avalanche, from snow structure to rescue techniques to why people ignore avalanche warnings.

Story continues below advertisement

Pascal Haegeli has been examining that why factor as an adjunct professor for Simon Fraser University's School for Resource and Environmental Management. He also operates as an avalanche consultant and has worked with the newly named Avalanche Canada.

Prof. Haegeli said major research has been done on avalanches – how they build and come loose from mountains. But the human factor hasn't been studied to nearly the same degree. Why is it that some people, even those warned about avalanches, will disregard the danger?

"My personal goal as a researcher is trying to understand how people assess the risks," said Prof. Haegeli, who attended the ISSW in Banff. "The challenge of avalanches is the hazard is not quite as obvious as in BASE jumping [where thrill seekers jump off a mountain or a building with a parachute]. You look at the beauty of the white landscape and it looks benign. People can come to the conclusion, 'It won't happen here.' But you can have an avalanche if the right conditions come together."

Mr. Auclair, 37, from Ste. Foy, Que., and Mr. Fransson, 31, were accompanied by two photographers when they were hiking and overcome. Ms. Daley, 29, from Tacoma, Wash., was being filmed snowboarding. There is speculation her snowboarding on a steep location triggered the avalanche.

On the subject of extreme athletes needing extreme challenges, Prof. Haegeli said, "I'm not sure that putting your life at risk is part of the attraction. It's about managing that attraction …. A lot of back-country recreation is more relaxed [cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling]. You get a lot of different reasons why people go to the back country and do their sports. The majority of people enjoy just being out there."

Karl Klassen, the public warning service manager for Avalanche Canada, says it's an ongoing exercise to keep people safe in the mountains. One way to do that is to provide detailed and timely data to those who may be heading into trouble.

"We talk about how to use the technology so we can get information to them as quickly as possible," Mr. Klassen said. "[People] need decision-making tools to see what the danger is.… Mobile technology will be the next big thing."

Story continues below advertisement

Avalanche Canada has a mobile app that provides daily avalanche forecasts that include weather updates, snowpack summaries and travel advice. There's also an observer network where users can send a photo and text to others heading in the same direction. Avalanche Canada covers 12 areas in Western Canada, while Parks Canada oversees the mountain national parks.

Anyone heading into the mountains is advised to take a course on outdoor hazards, pack a transceiver (so rescuers can find you sooner) and carry a collapsible shovel and a probe to poke the snow for buried victims.

"Ninety-eight per cent [of people] go to the back country with a transceiver," Mr. Klassen noted. "Only 14 per cent go with all three – a transceiver, a probe and a shovel."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies