Canada, U.S. set new avalanche danger warning system

Wed Mar 17, 2010 6:45pm EDT
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada and the United States have adopted a unified warning system to better advise skiers and snowmobilers about the avalanche danger, Canadian officials said on Wednesday.

Canada unveiled the new warning system just days after a big snow slide slammed into a snowmobile rally near Revelstoke, British Columbia, killing two people, although officials said the timing was only a coincidence.

The danger scale, to be implemented next winter, modifies current systems advising people whether it is safe to be in mountain regions, by incorporating both the likelihood and consequences of an avalanche in an area.

The current systems used in both countries warns people about the likelihood of a snow slide, but does not communicate other important information, said Grant Statham, a mountain risk specialist with Parks Canada.

"(The new system) considers factors such as both the likelihood of triggering an avalanche and how big it will be," Statham said. "Its job is to make it easier to understand."

Statham said the danger of several small slides being triggered may be considered less than the likelihood of one very large slide.

Parks Canada, the Canadian Avalanche Center, U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Avalanche Center were among the agencies that spent five years developing and testing the new warning system.

"It's a significant accomplishment," said Doug Abromeit, director of the U.S. Forest Service's avalanche center in Ketchum, Idaho.   Continued...

<p>A snow-covered tree and a misty mountain are seen in Canada's Banff National Park near Lake Louise, Alberta in this December 3, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>